Have we forgotten to be funny?

An interview with Cyrus Broacha.

When April Fools’ Day ends most of us are back to being blue. Returning to mundane routines and pining for weekends. Some of world’s top comedians make it their business to be funny even when no one is laughing. 
For Indian satirists, there’s enough fodder for humour with the twists and turns in the political landscape. Many miles away from my home town, a show that often cracks us up is ‘The Week That Wasn’t, with Cyrus Broacha.’ Hosted on News 18 (Formerly CNN IBN) it is a half hour run down of Indian politics and has ruffled feathers on more than one occasion. It might not be the funniest show on television but the anchors have the guts to make sure they have the last laugh. 

Catching up with the host, Cyrus, seems impossible at first. Like any anchor, he is writing and rehearsing in a Mumbai studio, juggling between events in Pune and even working on podcasts for a radio podcast show called ‘Cyrus Says.’
For well over two decades he’s got brickbats and bouquets from fans and foes alike. He began anchoring a radio show on Saturday mornings in Mumbai and went on to become one of the highest paid VJ’s at the time.
Even today Cyrus begins to laugh before his listeners do. He’s written books that haven’t won too many accolades and he’s acted in five Indian films which didn’t really win awards either. What makes brand Broacha? Here, he is addressing a UAE audience for the very first time.

1. From radio, theatre to TV, how easy is it to talk about the most controversial of issues? Most comedians like Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have networks to back them up. How does your show go about doing what it does?

This is a tough one to answer. On the radio, we often talk about nothing. It’s silly. We usually don’t get close to anything political. In theatre, one can get away with a lot because nobody seems to know what is going on.
TV, now in the present situation, we should perhaps talk between the sheets a little bit and figure out ways to communicate without getting into trouble. You can just say that freedom is given, but it is limited. As for international artists like ‘Jimmy Fallon’ and ‘Jimmy Kimmel’, more than networks, they have legal teams to back them up and defamation and other things like that are little more difficult to prove in the West, or rather the law allows you a lot more leeway.

2. Your background is basically in theatre. Would you call yourself a writer/comedian or actor?

I am basically an out of work actor. I hate the word comedian because I don’t know what that means honestly after some time. I mean there is so much pressure! It’s like saying “You’re a boxer.” Then meeting other people saying, “Come and punch me to prove you’re a boxer.” So, that’s why I hate the word comedian.
As a writer, well I think personally that everybody is a writer. “Are you a good writer?” that’s something different altogether. I only see myself as an out of work actor. I wish I was a lawyer though. I still want to complete the degree…

3. When a script for your TV show is put together, do you have discussions over what to omit?
Well in this and the last year or so, when we put the scripts together, we have been doing a lot editing as we write. We discuss ‘Can we do this, or can we not?’ I think the basic thing is that, if more people get involved, the longer the structure takes. So, the way we write is: I write separately, Kunal Vijayakar writes separately and then we argue. We also have a third writer called Amey Kulkarni who started writing for us. We take his stuff and we just do what we want with it, but we avoid discussions because it never ends otherwise because somebody is more conservative than the other. But yes, we must watch our backs.
Make-up sessions are very painful because most of the time they are long and arduous. Kunal does the acting and with or without make-up he is difficult to digest or look at. (chuckles) We’ve also had the ugliest collection of actors. Gopal Dutt Tewari is one who is a huge star on TV, and he is horrendous! He is one of those men you can’t describe. It’s almost like somebody just fell from a tree and started acting.
And Kaneez Surka, with all due respect, isn’t Priyanka Chopra, but she is pretty. We did ask for Priyanka.

For each make-up session, we do have limited time and we also have a make-up artist who’s name is Ivin Campbell and he is brilliant. Sometimes Kunal disregards Ivin and does the make-up himself. Ivin would then usually just stand and look in the mirror. However, Ivin has done very well. If he ever hears or reads about this, Ivin, I’ve given you credit. Even though we make fun of you all the time and pinch and pull you physically until you cry in pain. Which is how the professionals work and all of that.

4. In your own words – Why is it important to be funny?

In my own words it is absolutely not important to be funny, it is important to be on time. It’s the only thing that I’m interested in. In fact, I hate people trying to be funny and I have realised they try to presume you’re in the funny business and everyone tries to be funny around you and that whole thing just descends in to something that is not funny at all.
My request to people is please leave the funny people alone. They don’t want to be funny. They are forced to do what they do, because they don’t want to play tax.

5.  How do you unwind?
There are four or five options some of which I won’t mention. Watching a lot of live sport like cricket or golf. Especially sports which take a long time.
Of course you can always have an affair but that costs money and time and women in Bombay are never on time so that doesn’t make sense.

6.   Are there comedians that just make you sick?
Not really. I think comedians are often just soft targets. We are over rating the position that satire plays. Society is not really run by comic comments, they are trying to express themselves.
7.  People often mistake Dubai for being just about shopping and nothing else. What are some things you love about Dubai? Have you visited the region? Attended any theatre here?

I’ve been to Dubai a lot and it is a great city. It reminds me of New York, but minus the mugging. Although I do like the Opera, but it might be too expensive for me.  For me Dubai is a slice of a future world.
I don’t think India is ready for it yet. We are just too many people in a small radius. For me frankly speaking, I just like Dubai as no one really gets in your way and everyone is doing their own thing and minds their own business.

8.     Are there times when people tell you not to be funny?
 Oh god, all the time. From the time I was in grade 1, my teachers would tell me, ‘would you please stop talking.’ I think if I wrote an autobiography it would be called, ‘Stop talking.’ I think if I had to listen to them, I would have had no job and my children would be starving. They were all wrong. What kind of teachers are these? They make ridiculous comments. They should be punished and made to teach in other cities, like Jabalpur or something.

9.     You’ve interviewed celebrities like Russel Peters. Is there anyone who intimidated you?
Russel was in an extremely bad mood when he came on the show because he had just done five interviews with film companies for some other Punjabi Canadian, Hindi, Bollywood film city movie that was coming out that nobody watched, so he wasn’t very funny. Or maybe you need to pay him to be funny. He did touch me a couple of times, inappropriately, I felt but what is inappropriate in Canada and what is inappropriate in Mumbai, Lower Parel is different.

10. We’ve seen you in various roles. People often identify with you because of the MTV show Bakra and because you are easy to relate to. What would you say to your fans including Amitabh Bachchan?

I don’t know if Mr. Bachchan is my fan but I think he knows my name, which is good enough. In the year 2000 we worked on the millennium ka celebration and we were coming back from Delhi on the same flight. And I kept a very low profile because I didn’t want to disturb him because you know everyone wants to catch his eye.
On the bus that takes us back from the tarmac he came close to me and said, “Mr. Broacha you can’t even say hello.” I was quite impressed. He’s quite a funny man I must say, with all that large body of work to his name and to talk to small fry like us

11. We know you love dogs tell us about them.

I try to take my dog everywhere. Unfortunately, a few of my dogs have gone to the other world now. I am one of those kind of people, (I don’t know how to say this because I’ll sound like a sissy,) but I feel immense pain when I am separated from my canine. I’m hoping I will feel the same pain when separated from my relatives but that hasn’t happened yet.  
I take the dog everywhere. Where ever it ne day  anine.in when i  mighthe other world now.  said, atch his eye. is possible. I hope one day we can live in a world where it’s you, plus your dog and no body else.  You don’t have to bring a significant other. In India we are working on the bovines. First we get the buffaloes comfortable and then we move to the other animals. Lets see if that happens one day. 

12. Tell us about the early days. 
Hosting college festivals like Malhar was a great experience far as I remember, the technique was, if I remember correctly, you just throw toffees on the floor and people come and pick them up. You then start talking really fast and hope they will pay attention. Its all I need to know about anchoring. You can ask my manager who is with me today. I still try that. Till today even the richest of persons, gets a toffee for free and they will listen to you. Also in college people would heckle you. “Start the dash dash music,” and things like that. People abuse you and somehow it made you stronger. Once Nikhil Chinapa came and did a gig with us, he was stunned that people could be so rude. I tried the same tactic with all the various people who attended my wedding but they still attended the ceremony, even though I told them not to come.


(We apologise for the audio quality. A little love must go to the fact that social media made this happen).


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