You might recognize him as that guy who makes bad innuendos on the Youtube show The Punliners. Or as Sundas, the hilarious dimwit on the Comedy Central show Camp Pains.
Or as the dude who used to host Delhi-based radio channel Hit 95 FM’s evening show. Or the guy who currently hosts his own late-night talk show, Son Of Abish, at Canvas Laugh Factory, Mumbai. Or the fellow who’s testing his new outfit The Improvisers at The Humming Tree in Bangalore. Clearly, Abish Mathew’s all over the place. So you can’t blame us for tying him up so he’d give us a bit of his time.
What made you choose comedy over your other, er, talents?
I’m flattered that you think I have other talents. But comedy came as a natural career choice to me as I admire my father – he is quite the entertainer once he’s had some of that magic potion called alcohol. Following in his footsteps, I tried being funny around my family, and was frequently branded as “annoying”. To date, my cousins think this quality of annoyance is what people are paying good money to watch. (Yes, kind, supportive words are how my family shows love.)
And how’s the journey been so far?
Quite un-mentored. There were no successful paths to follow in the industry here about five years ago, so we stand-up comics pretty much did what we thought was the best way to do the job and also be able to live off it.
You call your show Son Of Abish. Despite what the name suggests, your acts are arguably among the “cleanest” around. Why is that?
I wish I had a deep meaningful answer to that, but the truth is the name is simply a pun that reflects nothing about the content [of the show] but does attract a lot of unsuspecting people. I am also not a fan of superlatives. I just attempt to write jokes my parents would laugh at, so it does turn out to be slightly cleaner.
How did you train yourself for this job?
I used to watch a lot of comedy videos after people passed out at parties. It was part entertainment and part research on how to write a joke and deliver a punch line, and how to embrace this personality. But what got me to where I am (which is light years away from where I want to be) is that I took to the stage at every given opportunity, whether it was hosting an event or doing open mics. It didn’t matter if my last show was horrible, if people told me to stick to singing, not even if I was losing money. I had to be on stage to learn.
You’re also present on radio, TV and the web – pretty much every medium. Where do you feel most in your element?
I love the stage. There is something about a live audience watching you, that nervousness, which makes you want to be better. And I also love the web – the wide variety of audiences you get to serve on the internet is unmatched. The ideal thing for me to do is a web show with a live audience – which is what Son Of Abish is. [#shamelessplug]
Are you competitive?
You have to be competitive, not to be better than your contemporaries but to be better than what you were yesterday. Jealousy is a great catalyst to push you forward. Until it affects your relationship with others in the fray, it is a good way to become better.
Catch “Son Of Abish” at Canvas Laugh Factory, Mumbai on July 18 and “Sketchy Behavior” at the NCPA, Mumbai on July 19 Follow him @abishmathew on twitter.
(this appeared in gqindia.com on July 14, 2014)