Abish Mathew talks about Son of Abish, and the things he does in the name of research
As Abish Mathew debuts new episodes of his talk show Son of Abish Season 2, and introduces his famous and funny guests, you wonder where the comedian turned talk-show host has been for the last three years.
The stand up comic's hit talk show Son of Abish first premiered in 2014. The show was broadcast on Youtube and lasted for about half-an-hour in which Mathew would spend the first half delighting the live audience with his monologue and as a second act, would call a guest who would talk about her/his life in the comedy business.
Though it was a sporadically produced 8-episode show, with episodes that were spaced weeks apart; it was the first of its kind in India and it shot him into internet popularity. So what took him so long to come up with the next season?
Bigger, better, funnier
"Though the two-and-a-half year gap was unintentional, I really wanted the second season to stand out from the first: I wanted the caliber of the interviews to go up, I really wanted to 'up' the production values. We had to wait for the second season to be bigger and better. But I am glad I took the time off and got a chance to improve my skills. I was focusing on acting, improv, doing comedy songs, live shows. I was also getting a lot brand esquires. So I hardly had time, and I put this project on the back burner," Mathew tells us.
"I also set up my production team and learnt how to produce. Like if I am doing a joke that requires a wig, now I know how the whole show set up works as a producer too. I know that a wig will cost me 600 bucks; but a wooden tray on my head will cost me 50 bucks. So I will go for the wooden tray which would make for a better joke and is lighter on the pocket at the same time."
"So the intentional break really helped me shape the second season better, I guess."
When you look at the first episode of the season season, which debuted on 3 February 2017, you have a sense of déjà vu. Right from the window on the set which is overlooking the Mumbai skyline, to the personalised desk and mug for Mathew, the set design seems familiar, something like a copy of The Tonight Show featuring Jimmy Fallon; or so the audience thinks by the looks of the comments on the first episode which featured AIB comedian Tanmay Bhat and Vishal Dadlani. Is this on purpose?
Mathew did address this issue in the second episode, and talked to us about it as well: "I am not too concerned with them saying that it is a copy of Fallon or Kimmel. I have simply adapted the late night show format, which I really wanted to adapt for India; and a format is a format."
"I have being doing shows on Youtube for a few years now and these comments just mean that people are just posting things they will get an upward like on, And that is why I chose to address this issue. Because I do want to cater to my audience. The show is not above them, it is for them," he said.
He pauses, and continues, "If I had made this show in the '90s, it would be a Jay Leno show. Before that it would be compared to David Letterman, and way before, Johnny Carson. I think they are comparing the format. "
The whys of viral videos
So what attracts Mathew so much about the late night format? The comedian is apt with juggling his roles as a stand up comic, talk show host and producer — and because of this, he loves the format of a late night show. He can juggle his talents as a comic, write comedy sketches and interview his guests — all in one go.
Case in point: The first episode of the second season went viral and achieved more than 800k hits on Youtube in the first two days of its debut. So did the comedy sketch he featured in the episode, titled 'Pre-wedding video' which also achieved virality on social media.
But it is the feel of the live audience that set things apart for Mathew. He sums it up for us, "It is a different type of feeling, when I perform in front of a camera, and there is a live audience. This format combines everything I love: performing for an audience, doing jokes and talking to some really cool people."
Whats in a name?
And how did he come up with the very unusual name for his talk show? "Oh that was something my dad used to joke about," laughs Mathew. "He used to keep saying 'son of Abish', your name sounds like son of a bi**h. So when I wanted to start my own talk show, I thought, why not use this play on words? Otherwise it would be the same ol' talk show featuring Abish Mathew or something."
For research's sake!
He also talked about how he had to go on dating apps like Tinder, Grindr and DOWN (yes, that's a thing) in the name of research on his first episode. Is the research for his show always outlandish?
"Oh, you would be so amazed with my Google search history. I am not as perverted as the perverted things I have to looked for in the name of research. Son of Abish season 1 was an image-based show for which I needed to find weird images. One image I needed and googled was 'A guy with legs over his neck' and it is a yoga pose that I was looking for. Since I didn’t know the name of that yoga pose; so that is what I wrote," he says. "The images I saw were really bad, if my parents saw them; they would make me change my profession completely. I am really happy that Google deletes my search history because sometimes I have typed things which have made me rethink what I am doing with my life."
Is that politically correct?
Mathew, who started out as a radio jockey, credits the internet with giving him the joy of watching his favourite comedian, Robin Williams, on Youtube for the first time."I always knew I wanted to make people laugh, but after seeing Robin Williams perform for the first time, I thought that's what I want to do, be a stand-up comic."
Mathew's career hasn't been free of controversy though. He was a part of the AIB Knockout roast that landed the comedy group into trouble because of its explicit content. Did that affect his brand of comedy? Not really, says Mathew. He likes to keep it clean. But he says the Knockout was a pivotal point in his life. "I need to make a decision and take a stand. Was I offensive? No, I didn't think I was. I didn't change my brand of humour. Now two or three years down the line, I have more experience, and I am more fine tuned to what the audience wants," he says.
So what are the comedian's plan for the future? Mathew signs off by saying, "We are already thinking of a season 3, and more shows perhaps."