There’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ day for Papa CJ. The Kolkata boy, who travels around the world, packs plenty into a day as he plays stand-up comedian, coach, motivational speaker, author and more. Ask him where he’d rather be today, and he says, “I wrote these replies on a plane and I’ll take that, since I’m already on cloud nine”. Confident and kind, My Kolkata caught up with the ‘ambassador of happiness’ who turned 46 this March on what’s been keeping him busy lately…
Where was your last flight to and why?
My last flight was to Dubai where I was invited to receive an international award. It was a recognition for being one of ‘India’s Top Minds in the field of Leadership Development and Executive Coaching’.
What’s kept the Kolkata boy busy the past year?
I don’t even remember what I did last week! Yesterday though, in addition to having coffee with my parents, I did 10 things:
- Helped improve a pitch deck and pitch for a startup looking to raise $2.5 million from a large venture capital firm.
- Confirmed to host a prestigious awards event for women achievers.
- Discussed ideas for a communication campaign for an upcoming product launch of a large multinational firm, that I will be helping with.
- Pulled together a 24-module leadership development programme for a client, that includes a combination or group learning sessions and individual coaching.
- Invested in a start-up in the men’s health space.
- Confirmed to play in a charity golf tournament.
- Conceptualised a workshop that I will be executing for 150 members of the Young FICCI Ladies Organisation (women from diverse professional and entrepreneurial backgrounds), that brings out their hero stories.
- Discussed how I can add value at a 300+ person national trade association event.
- Had a conversation about doing ‘A Comedian’s Guide to Communication Strategy’ at a large event for entrepreneurs.
- Agreed to be a guest on a podcast.
You maintain a happy balance between coaching and stand-up comedy. How do both worlds compare and where do they meet? Which do you enjoy more?
My purpose is to uplift others and both comedy and coaching allow me to achieve that goal. They both require high emotional intelligence, the flexibility to adapt on the spot, and the ability to manage energy. I love both but nothing surpasses the high of a great stand-up gig, and especially one that has a lot of seamless spontaneous crowd interaction. Where they differ is that in comedy, you are the centre of attention. But in coaching, your ‘coachee’ is the star. Also, humour is a superpower when coaching and my signature session, ‘A Comedian’s Guide to Communication Strategy’, which exists at the intersection of both these worlds, is very well received globally.
Three things you still do when you touch down in Kolkata…
Three things I always do when I come to Kolkata are eat rolls from Nizam’s, go to The Tollygunge Club (and play golf if I have the time) and meet my friend Mayank Jalan.
‘No trip to the city is complete without a ‘single egg double chicken’ roll from Nizam’s’TT archives
Your fondest memory of growing up in Kolkata?
My fondest memory of Kolkata has always been the warmth of the people. I also cherish the memory of going to the Hanuman Mandir every Tuesday with my friend Chetan, and having chai and chicken bharta at Sharma Dhaba on Ballygunge Circular Road late at night.
When did you know you were ready to write a book? Are you currently writing any more?
I knew I was ready to write a book when my publisher paid me an advance and gave me a contract with a legally binding deadline! I’m currently rewriting my memoir and also have two books that I’m slowly piecing together. One of them is about life and business lessons from a career in stand-up comedy that people outside the profession will find useful too.
[Click here to read an excerpt from Papa CJ’s memoir Naked]
‘I knew I was ready to write a book when my publisher paid me an advance and gave me a contract with a legally binding deadline!'Photo courtesy: Papa CJ; wardrobe by 108TYM
How do you stay relatable in the age of Reels and TikTok? Do you post on social media yourself?
I’m not so calculating. I post when I feel like I have something to say. I write my stuff myself. I try to be authentic and trust that it will resonate. I rarely bother with reels and I’m grateful TikTok has been banned. While I often say that I would not be on social media if it weren’t for the profession I’m in, I do get satisfaction from the value others say they get from my content. LinkedIn is my preferred platform followed by Instagram.
[Click here to catch up on 12 posts written by Papa CJ and shared by him on LinkedIn on his 46th birthday]
Add this to your weekend reading list
For someone ‘who makes people feel better’, what makes you feel better?
Good coffee, good company and good conversation are all this man needs to feel great.
You’re mentoring many people through your words. Who’s been your mentor in life?
My parents aside, the lens that the profession of stand-up comedy has given me, has been my greatest source of learning and personal growth. I’m also a sponge for soaking up knowledge from people who know better than me. So, when in learned company, I ask probing questions and then shut up and lap up whatever wisdom comes my way.
In 2019, you recovered from a serious bike accident that you describe here. Do you look at life differently after?
I have always been a grateful person by nature and that remains. The accident however has made me more appreciative of the value of good health and of time with loved ones. I also stick to four wheels now.
After a major accident while on a motorcycle expedition in Ladakh in 2019Courtesy: Papa CJ
As a stand-up comedian, which are your favourite cities to perform in and why?
Kolkata, because it is home. And London, because not only did I learn my craft there, but in my book, it is the most comedy-savvy and multicultural audience in the world, and therefore the litmus test of a comedian’s skills.
If you could write these replies from anywhere in the world right now, where would that be?
I wrote these replies on a plane and I’ll take that since I’m already on cloud nine.