What Is This? plus other questions with Kanan Gill – MICF

Indian comedian, actor and author, Kanan Gill has had the global premiere of his latest special What Is This at the Comedy Festival in Melbourne. Creative Writing Officer, Nithya Niranjani had a chat with Gill before its release about his new show and the hard work that went behind making it. 

  1. Who are the comedians that have influenced your comedic style in recent years? 
    In recent years, I think I’ve been influenced by my peers in India! We’re always pushing each other to be better. I started doing comedy at the same time as Biswa Kalyan Rath and I think we’ve had a very fun, parallel trajectory. 
  1. As an audience member, I’m a big fan of your expressions and timing. How much of this do you think has developed with experience? 
    I think the first couple of years in stand up just goes in perfecting how to tell a joke, and how to communicate what you want to say. It’s only a few years in that you realise how crucial the performance of a joke is, and yes this has completely developed with experience. It’s a mix of deliberate effort and just feeling relaxed and connected with the material enough to explain it with emotional accuracy. 
  1. This festival marks the world premiere of your new show, What Is This? What is your process of preparation, and was there something unique or different about preparing for this one? 
    I’ve been doing comedy for about 12 years now, and for the first 9 I was tremendously stressed about putting the show together, never feeling like it was quite done and agonising over every possible detail. As I’ve got older and more experienced, I realise I can just rest back and let the show take the shape that it does and make the same amount of progress —and, more importantly— just relax and have fun while doing it. 
  1. If your special, What Is This? was a movie, what would the synopsis say? 
    Tom Cruise returns in a surprising prequel to the first Mission Impossible and weaves a tale of identity in the modern world, and if finding who you are is even possible. Critics say it is an odd departure from the rest of the Mission Impossible franchise, saying “it had nothing about being a spy or missions or anything, and a very long discussion about tiramisu. 5/5” 
  1. How does it feel to have your show premiere at Melbourne International Comedy Festival that happens to be Australia’s largest cultural event? 
    It’s a thrill! I’ve performed at MICF before in 2019, but I had only done a few shows around the time. It’s my first time ever doing a full festival run, I’m excited to see all the other brilliant shows happening all around, and more excited to find out what so much rigorous stand up does to my show (and to me). 
  1. What excites you about performing live in front of an audience? Do you have a favourite city to perform in? 
    Performing for a live audience, is a core component of stand up. You can’t do it at home, so I’m excited to be on stage, because on stage is the only place where I can be a stand-up comedian. Otherwise, I’m just a guy with a notebook. 
    I’m not preferential to any city. I find stand up works about the same no matter where you go in the world.  
  1. Which shows are you planning to watch at the MICF? 
    Oh, every single one. 
  1. Finally, what’s next on your journey? What can we look forward to? 
    I’m touring the whole year with my new show and also with my debut novel, Acts of God, which released in January. The book is currently available only in the Indian subcontinent, but I hope to have it published in Australia soon. Either way, I’ll be bringing a lot of copies along with me! 

By Nithya Niranjani Nagaraja Creative Writing Officer

Header image via supplied

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