TLC's first Indian Queen of Comedy Niveditha Prakasam on having the last laugh, future plans
Niveditha Prakasam, the girl you saw acing self-deprecating humour on TLC's Queens of Comedy says she is just "an average person that just went to work to make ends meet and did open mics occasionally." Competing with seven other comedians, ultimately it was her distinct deadpan deliveries and 'chilled out' demeanour that won out in the end.
Firstpost caught up with the language editor and now possibly a full-time comedian for a chat. Excerpts from the conversation:
First off, how does it feel to become India’s first Queen of Comedy?
It's still quite unreal to me. I don't feel any different as a person — still the same mediocre person I was before the show — but all the attention I've been receiving is overwhelming. I wasn't quite prepared for this level of attention. Having said that, I'm thoroughly enjoying it; this is the kind of sleeplessness everyone wants in their lives.
Tell us a bit about yourself, keeping the show aside. When did comedy happen to you?
I'm a very average person that just went to work to make ends meet and did open mics occasionally. I'm quite laid-back/lazy, whichever sounds better.
I've always loved watching comedies in any form — movie, sitcom, stand-up. I found out about the show on Twitter and decided to apply after I saw that the prize was a TV show. Who gets that type of opportunity? I've never even dreamt of something like this.
Who and what are your influences? Also, your favourite comedians on the Indian and international circuit?
As I said, I've watched comedies since I was a kid. It has always been my favorite genre of entertainment. It started with TV shows and movies, I started watching stand-up much later (late teens) mostly because I didn't have access to it before that.
There are too many people in the Indian comedy circuit that I like. It's so new, there are times when I watch people at open mics and become a fan. There's still so much talent out there that people haven't seen. I don't want to pick a single Indian stand-up comedian because I can't make up my mind. I feel the same way about international comedians, but I do have a soft corner for Bill Burr and Conan O'Brien (this keeps changing).
What was the most challenging form for you on the show — sketch, improv or standup?
The sketch round was the most challenging round but what I found more difficult than sketch was improv. I knew that if I went into the elimination round, I would never survive.
The sketch round was a total surprise. I was the weakest contestant during the week of the sketch round. I had no idea I could act; I had told everyone that it was the end for me on the competition. Getting the highest score was a pleasant surprise.
I'm definitely open to sketches. I've found a new talent and I'm going to capitalize on it for sure. I don't know about improv though, still bad at improv. But I will keep at it.
Whose workshops resonated the most with you? Tell us about the three judges.
The improv workshop was the most fun. But I must say every workshop we did was extremely useful and informative. I learned how to write jokes, tell funny stories and how to write a sketch in a month! It was a comedy crash course more than a competition, and I'm extremely grateful for the experience.
The judges were very supportive. Rohan Joshi gave us a lot of technical feedback, which helped me reflect on my sets on the show. Kaneez Surka has been very supportive to all of us — she gave me some writing tips and other very valuable advice about the business in general, which I need because I'm very out of place here. Richa Chadha told me to never change because she noticed that people might think I'm intimidating — a very accurate observation —although I'm not sure why people find me intimidating. She is the nicest. You need someone that nice around in a competition like this. It just makes you feel better.
Was it intimidating to compete with such talented comedians?
Not at all. Maybe if we didn't get along or if one of us behaved like we were unapproachable, that might've happened. The eight of us got along very well. I was honored to be competing with these girls. I'm honored to know them. We will all be working together a lot in the future.
Do we need shows like Queens of Comedy?
While I do think that talent can creep out of anywhere naturally if it exists, I also think competitions like this are necessary to find them faster. As I said, I was very irregular at open mics, and if it weren't for this competition, it would've taken me five years (or much more) to get where I am now unless of course I quit trying before that.
What's your plan now? How’s your new show shaping up?
I'm very excited about the show, but I don't know anything about it yet. I know as much as all of you. But I do know I'm going to put a lot of effort into it. That's for sure. I will do more stand-up until then.
Has the audience started seeing you in a different light now?
I went to an open mic recently where people had come to see me after watching the show. They took pictures with us and called themselves fans. Comedians I admire recognize me now and people are definitely seeing me in a different, positive light, and I am still not used to that. The most challenging part for me is the attention. I've never got so much, so I feel like I need some training to handle it.