Gear Up Because Kung Fu Bonda Is Coming!

With resounding success in India, Malaysia, and London, standup comedian Bhargav Ramakrishnan, who prefers stage name Baggy, is coming to Singapore with his first solo show: Kung Fu Bonda. Centered on the troubling phase that is growing up, Kung Fu Bonda is set to discuss issues ranging from ‘adulting’ to finally accepting that you’re actually growing old. I, Sanjana, had the opportunity to speak to the man himself about his inspirations for the show, his own experience of turning 30 and more! Here’s what we chatted about: 
Sanjana: How did you first get involved with stand-up comedy? 
Baggy: I’ve always been interested in the performing arts. In college, I worked closely with Evam, an Indian performing arts company and even after finishing up my education I was involved in The Arts. By 2011, I was producing and managing standup comedy shows, and it was an interesting experience because, at the time, there was absolutely no standup in South India. In other big cities like Delhi and Mumbai standup was a few years old, but down south there weren’t too many artists and barely any shows! So in such circumstances, there was barely a culture for standup comedy and it was our job to in essence to ‘re-invent’ it.
But things really started changing when I attended a stand-up comedy festival in 2014 as an audience member. There was a huge variation in the acts I saw, and I was exposed to so many styles that I realized, everything I’d done in standup so far just barely scratched the surface. But most importantly, I’d been helping so many comedians by managing and directing them when it was about time I did it for myself. I’d always loved being on stage anyway! So I took it to the next level in June 2014, when I started doing my own shows and I haven’t stopped since! When I’m here in Singapore next month, I’ll be celebrating my 4 year anniversary with this profession! 
Sanjana: Wow, that’s great and we’re looking forward to that! So since you’ve been doing this a while what would you say are some of the challenges of being a standup comedian? 
Baggy: Well first off, I think the biggest challenge that I face to day is sitting down and writing. If you need me to be on stage, improvise on the spot or interact with the audience, I’m your guy! But having to be by myself in front of a notepad and jot down material, that’s hard! And its a lot worse because I have such a high tendency to procrastinate or delay things to the last minute. I’m also very restless and distracted, so all these qualities are not a good mix when you need the content to flow. 
But more relevant now is having to carve a niche for yourself. Standup has really gained importance and popularity all over in the past 2 years and there are so many artists out there. It can get difficult to stand out from the rest and build a following for yourself. Working on your craft and getting better at it ensures that you have a wider reach, but the ultimate goal isn’t to crack jokes for an empty stadium! So it requires attention! More than sustaining your career, when people compliment your work it's encouraging. People come up to me and tell me they’ve had a bad day and that my show really helped them relax and just laugh for a few hours and that really makes me feel good. 
Sanjana: Keeping these in mind how do you prepare content? 
Baggy: I think different comedians get inspired by different things. Personally, I’m an observer and so all my content comes from the nonsense that happens to me! Anecdotes from my daily life, just simple observational and self-depreciating humor! But more specifically, the show I’ll be doing in Singapore, Kung Fu Bonda, is my first solo special and it has a more specific theme. It’s only recently that I’ve started living on my own because I went to college in my hometown and worked in the city I was brought up in too. So when I finally moved out, my experiences ‘adulting’ has given me a lot of material. These incidents are not necessarily unique and they’re mostly specific to me, but ultimately most individuals experience this in some form or the other. Everyone is scared of growing old beyond an age and talking about my coming to terms with ‘adulting’ helps me connect with the audience that has also experienced it! By belittling the number that’s age and laughing about it, we’re all reflecting on our individual experiences too!

Sanjana: So how does your content change for an international audience? 
Baggy: Well even when I do shows in Malaysia or London, they primarily attract an Indian crowd. Because they’re Indians or South Indians, there’s a lot of ground for me to connect with them. Indian parents, for instance, as a huge topic because it’s unique and applicable regardless of where you grew up. But once I have an audience hooked on a common topic, I can start introducing my personal experiences and still make it funny and relatable. 
Sanjana: But unlike other countries like the UK, Indians in Singapore are mostly second or third generation Singaporeans and not Indian nationals. So how did you account for this? 
Baggy: You’re right, the audience I encountered in the UK was largely composed of Indian nationals even though there was a fair share of people who were born and brought up there. This struck me for the first time during my London show, because the first couple rows were packed with people that had possibly never been to India. But over time I’ve realized that even if the topic is something they might not understand, by contextualizing the punch line I can still make it relatable and just as funny. So when I crack a joke, the Indian nationals will be the first to laugh and when I deliver the altered punch line, the rest will also start laughing and this will cause the Indian nationals to laugh harder. I guess all this just adds new layers to the show and I just lean in and work with it as and when it happens! 

Sanjana: That definitely sounds like an interesting approach! Could you elaborate a little more on the kind of content you plan to present for the Singaporean audience? 
Baggy: Well I usually prep for a show anytime between 10 days and 2 weeks before I’m scheduled to perform. So since the Singapore show is a month away, there’s time for me to start preparing! But without giving too much away, I know for a fact that the Singapore show will focus a lot on the themes I’d discussed earlier but also include my past experiences in the country. There will definitely be bits about the order, structure, and cleanliness of the place and my first impressions as an Indian. I mean, it’s kind of freaky, like something you’d see on Black Mirror! Everyone knows what to do and how to do it!

But overall I just want to say that I’m extremely excited to perform there! This show’s been brilliantly received all over India, in Malaysia and in London and I’m really excited to see how it’ll turn out in Singapore. I think there’s something for everyone in this show because when we’re young, all we want is to grow up quickly until we reach a point where we’re content with our age. But then a few more years down the line makes us want to go back in time and be young again. This show really focuses on why that switch comes about and how we deal with it, and I think people will really understand that. 
So there you have it; our entire conversation with Baggy! If you’ve enjoyed his content so far and are excited about this show, you might also be excited to hear that Baggy has been working on a new show these past couple months! So come September, you might hear more about that too! But for now, come down and join Baggy in a comical exploration of this phase in life on June 16th from 7 PM onwards. You can find out more about tickets and the venue here.

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