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March 19, 2019 // Interviews

Keeping It Real: Kanan Gill talks comedy with GMF

“Everyone likes a good joke.”

Kanan Gill is one of the most identifiable English-speaking stand-up comedians in India today. While he might have shot to fame with the ‘Pretentious Movie Reviews’ series with fellow comic Biswa Kalyan Rath a few years ago, he’s charted out his own course since then. With a critically acclaimed solo web special Keep It Real, sketch and improv performances, and cameos in comedy web series, he’s clearly one of the most versatile acts out there. As part of his world tour, he performs at Gaana Music Festival 2019. We caught up with him to have a chat.

GMF: As one of the most prolific and well-traveled stand-up comedians from India, we need to ask: Is there a difference doing stand-up in India and abroad?

KG: So far there hasn’t really been! I think some countries have a proclivity for a certain kind of humour, but everyone likes a good joke. I’m anticipating that as I travel further abroad I might need to speak clearer and not mumble so much.

GMF: Your last solo web special, Keep It Real, got rave reviews. Congratulations on that! How’s your next one, Teetar different?

KG: Thank you! For this special I wanted to push myself and do things I was either unable (or too scared) to do in comedy earlier. So I wanted to be funnier but get laughs in different places, different kinds of laughs and not worry so much about the show.

Keep It Real was released in 2017 and became one of the highest-rated web specials by an Indian stand-up comic.

GMF: You’ve done stand-up, sketch, improv and have specials with all of them (the latter two with some of India’s best comics from the genre). How is your thought process different for each? Is it easy for a stand-up comedian to do the other two… And vice-versa?

KG: Stand-up and sketch I’ve loved for years and I’ve studied them from long before I even started doing comedy. Improv took some learning for me. I think with stand-up and sketch you have control and for improv you have to relinquish control and trust the people who are with you on stage, completely. If it’s good, everyone wins together or everyone sinks together!

GMF: A couple of years back, you said in an interview that Bollywood was making good movies now: What do you think the reason for this is?

KG: Well I was in a Bollywood movie at the time so maybe I lied. No, I’m kidding, there has been a definite shift in the kinds of movies that bollywood is making. I think gradually the public wants something different and over time I think (hope, rather) that the stereotype of Bollywood will shift to something more progressive.

GMF: We can’t not ask. Will we ever see a movie review again? You know the fans want it!

KG: We’ll be back as soon as people stop wanting it.

What the Indian interwebs is missing these days: A 2014 ‘Pretentious Movie Review’.

GMF: And finally, your question for India is more relevant now than ever before! You are on one side of the road. On the other side there is progress. In the middle there is a cow. How do you cross?

KG: I think we have to get across any way we can, by tip toe-ing, leaping or sprinting!


PS: The last question was a reference to one of Kanan’s most popular jokes, which you can see here.

Catch Kanan Gill (along with the rest of a stellar music and comedy line-up) at Gaana Music Festival on June 8th (New Jersey) and June 9th (California). Tickets available here.

Follow Kanan Gill on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.