I once posted a status message that I am having a night out, and when I returned the next morning I found my house had been burgled. However, it didn't take me long to catch the thief as he had posted pictures of the robbery on Facebook. And imagine, the thief and I had four mutual friends!”
Viral, oops, Vipul Goyal is in full flow at his comedy show at IIM-Indore. “Facebook is a feminist Web site. When a girl writes ‘missing my mom', she gets scores of comments and likes, but when I post the same message all I get is one comment… ‘grow up kiddo' and that too from my dad.” His take on the popular social networking site Facebook and Indian gods, including master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, immediately strikes a chord with the audience, mostly in their 20s and from the IITs, NITs and IIMs across India. Vipul's funny videos on YouTube have gone viral, shared by more than 65,000, fetching him the nickname Viral Goyal.
When six IITians put their heads together, we expect a technology start-up to take shape. Instead what we have is Humorously Yours, offering stand-up comedy and entertainment shows. Ajay Kumar and Vishal Pardessi take care of marketing, while Arunabh Kumar, Creative Experiment Officer) is the ‘CEO' looking after the filmmaking and advertising. Goyal scripts his own shows but discusses ideas with Biswapati Sarkar and Ashay Gangwar, themselves aspiring stand-up comics from IIT-Kharagpur. They have held about 80 shows the past year.
Goyal, “a typical small-town middle-class boy from Falna in Rajasthan, who cracked his JEE and got into IIT-Bombay”, found himself enjoying performing on stage more than in exams, and “squeezing laughs out of the most inane situations in life.”
His shows are popular not just among college students, but also executives in corporate majors such as HDFC Ergo, Tata Communications, Cognizant and Infosys.
After graduating from IIT, working as a retail analyst at multinational Adventist he realised his interest was in HR “Humour Resources”. Six months later he left to do comedy shows. His resignation letter had his boss in splits as Goyal had signed off with “Humorously Yours”!
If this appears straight out of Chetan Bhagat's bestseller Five Point Someone, Goyal hastens to clarify: “I wasn't a Five Point Someone… much worse.... my professors will tell you, in one semester I was Point Five Someone!”
So, is he making money? “As a stand-up comedian I have been laughing my way to the banks… for loans… ha ha ha! Just kidding, initially it was a bit of a struggle, but now we are earning more than our peers in a corporate job,” he wisecracks.
Working closely with another set of IITians who have set up a firm called “The Viral Fever”, Goyal and team are exploring new media and looking to launch newer formats of entertainment. “…funny and interesting videos and shows, as we all know that our television industry suffers from ‘chronic creative inertia',” Goyal says.
With performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Montreal Comedy Fest, he hopes to take Indian stand-up comedy to a wider market.
Humour is serious business, he assures us. “Every minute movement on stage has to be choreographed and rehearsed, and even a single negative reaction from the audience can turn the tables completely. Also, coming up with new material every few days is a challenge. Of course, having a sense of humour always helps.”
He credits his educational background for establishing a better rapport with today's audiences. “You can talk to them about Facebook, engineering, dating, management, politics and many other topics.”
He finds English stand-up comedy growing in popularity in India, especially in the metros, thanks to YouTube and the Internet.
His group puts together shows that touch on a range of topics — from social networking to politics, entrepreneurship to relationship, engineering physics to management dynamics.
“The challenge is to create humour from inane topics and make people wonder how such a topic could have an element of humour in it,” says Goyal.
And far removed from his onstage funny persona, Goyal is a quiet and reserved guy in real life.
He, however, admits that his jokes are a reflection of his personality, adding “that's why I never do sex jokes!”
His parting shot: “Always try to see the lighter side of life, and if you are not able to do that, just go and have a drink. It helps!”