Category Archives: Celebrities

Nanette: The Power of Pain

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For a lot of us who’ve attempted stand up comedy, there’s a sort of an urgency to hear laughter when you’re up on stage. We’ll do anything for it. We’ll pander, make jokes about ourselves, make jokes about our inability to make decent jokes about ourselves. What we long for at the end of our set is a physical reaction to a joke. Laughter. Lots of it. Nuance, honing our craft, slowly raising the bar of our material are all secondary to our first demand – laughter. They have to laugh. They’ve paid for a reason and there can be no two ways about it.

Over time, the way I’ve learnt to appreciate stand up has changed. I’ve grown to love and understand comics who’ve gotten people to laugh at their pain, or the darkest parts of their life. I’ve adored how Norm Macdonald disregards any form of pandering to his audience whether that means entire minutes of silence or ending in a lull. I’ve treasured Marc Maron’s ‘Too real’, which I found incredibly intimate and introspective. I loved Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation, where you could see how much pain went into writing that special, post his wife passing away. I’ve been awestricken consecutively by Ali Wong through both Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife where she channels her indignation and anger into two perfect hours of stand up.

Cut to yesterday, where I finished Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette in basically a crumpled heap of emotions. Her special breaks every single rule of stand up I could think of, but I think Nanette’s crowning achievement is that you’re not meant to laugh through it, except where and when Hannah allows you to. It’s a masterpiece of craft and technique, and it’s impossible to last through it as a straight, male person without feeling a huge sense of guilt how at much privilege we enjoy simply by virtue of our gender and our position in society.

Gadsby confronts her early career that catapulted her to stardom pretty early in her set. She acknowledges how she’s built a career out of self deprecation. She mentions what it was like to grow up as someone who’s gay. She breaks down why we laugh and how comedy works as a unique relationship between creating tension and diffusing it. She explains how her gay identity has been a point of tension her entire life, so diffusing it came naturally to her. The initial moments in her set are light, they show no indication of how painfully real the rest of the hour is going to go. Gadsby reaches a point where she confronts how she’s constantly belittled and put herself through humiliation on stage to make other people laugh, and she doesn’t wish to do it anymore.

I think this point is very important to me, because I see the person behind the act renouncing everything they have done in their career to finally present themselves in a light that they want to be seen in. It’s the recognition that success doesn’t matter if you can’t work on stage on your own terms.

From this point on, Gadsby covers you with the tension which primarily forms the base of every set-up in comedy. She builds on it with every topic she covers. Whether that’s the entitlement of white, male artists (She uses Picasso to build a fantastic case), whether it’s how male comedians have built careers by victim blaming (by talking about Monica Lewinsky) or how she’s paid the price for other people’s homophobia for most of her life. By the end of her set, she declares that she’s angry, and that she realises it’s fine for her to be angry, but she can’t continue to work in comedy anymore, because comedy is a medium where anger is diffused. At this point the crowd (and I assure you, you will consider yourself a part of them) is silent. You want to be relieved. You want her to make you laugh, to say that it was all an act and that you’re allowed to laugh. But it doesn’t come. This is Gadsby at the height of her control, because she refuses to utter the punchline that allows you to walk home in peace. She doesn’t bend. She walks off stage.

“I am not helping you anymore, because this tension is what not-normals carry inside of them all the time, because it is dangerous to be different.”

Every male comic I know (myself included) has at some point given a permutation of advice to a female comic to the tune of – Why are you so angry? Why does it bother you so much? Why can’t you talk about things that aren’t feminist? We do this because as straight, mostly upper caste male comics, we have no visible problems we can talk about at a personal level. It’s easy for us to be woke and cool, because we don’t have any pressure in our day to day lives of living in fear for who we are.  Gadsby’s special changes the very meaning of comedy to me because my eventual goal as a comedian cannot be to merely go up on stage and just make people laugh. It could start that way but it has to eventually be deeper . Comedy must question, it must make people think. More than anything else, if your obvious choice to make fun of someone or something are the threatened, you’re doing this wrong. As she says – Pull your fucking socks up!

Hannah Gadsby is testament that the cost of some of the worlds most memorable punchlines is often an entire life of pain. When a comedian grants us this privilege of a punchline they allow us to share their pain. With Hannah’s absolute refusal to let her audience share her pain, I’m convinced in her case, we don’t deserve to laugh at her genius. I hope she deigns us fit to some day.

I urge you to watch her special. It will question why you laugh at things, it will question what you laugh at and more than anything else, it will leave you with a gigantic question mark about everything you have ever made fun of in the past. It’s a work of art that won’t be replicated for a very long time.

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Bourdain – the Light in a Sea of Bullshit

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Every couple of weeks, I’ll dig up the truckload of memories I have from No Reservations or Parts Unknown and revisit my favourite episodes. Last week, I found a gem I didn’t remember watching as a kid. In this episode, Bourdain revisited the iconic New York Brasserie – ‘Les Halles’, where he used to work as the executive chef at one point. This was way before television stardom took him far away from the line. Not entirely satisfied with putting a very out of practice version of himself back in the kitchen for a nightmarish evening shift, he also dragged along Eric Ripert, the owner of Three Michelin starred Le Bernardin (Chef Eric, to put in context is to the world of cooking, what David Bowie is to music or what Jeff Koons is to art) The people in the restaurant were obviously flummoxed by the sight in front of them. I would be too if I walked in a restaurant and was told Eric Ripert personally fired my steak. As both of them struggled with age, Bourdain characteristically looked into the camera and acknowledged two things- 1) Returning to the kitchen was the exact nightmare he had imagined it would be 2) They were shit help. It’s the absolute honesty that everyone who binged on No Reservations or Parts Unknown had come to expect.

 

 

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Left: Chef Eric Ripert

The truth is most food writers don’t know their left butt-cheek from their right. They know they ‘like the taste’ but they have no clue what happens when acid hits meat or to summarise – the actual science behind why dishes taste good or bad. They have no idea what it means to eat a certain dish, the class it has developed from, for example – the millions of people who were so oppressed by the rich before they had no option to use the cheapest cuts to make a dish that’s become iconic over time. They start writing about food because they can afford expensive meals at restaurants others aren’t privileged enough to go to and create an illusion of insight. It’s so easy to befuddle a reader with an above average grasp of a language and no real critical insight. Bourdain to me was the first real deal. He worked and failed and reworked himself silly in kitchens for two decades before he started writing and talking about food. He actually spoke the language of the kitchen. When he went over to a city and broke the food down, he carried himself with the humility. Not once do I remember him acting like the legions of white talk show hosts who make it seem like they’ve tamed and made a region accessible to the west. Over a day of reading about people’s lasting thoughts of him I know that several others like me too wished he’d come and visit their hometowns. He seemed like the kind of a guy who you could feed the misal you eat, without alterations. Someone who wouldn’t say ‘That’s a little spicy for me’ or ‘Ugh. That’s like unhygienic’. One of my favourite lines of his about Indian food was ‘It’s spicy but it won’t kill you’, and he ate just like the rest of us do.

 

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The first article: This piece would go on to change the face of food journalism and make Bourdain’s career – https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1999/04/19/dont-eat-before-reading-this

 

Bourdain’s refusal to keep politics out of a food show is what makes him such a titan. He recognised how inseparable they are. His work was politically charged because he understood what an absolute privilege it is to have a voice that’s heard by millions. His voice was loud and unfaltering whether it came to talking about Gaza, about Kissinger, about Harvey Weinstein and countless issues. Every show, whether it’s Chef’s Table or Ugly Delicious is a direct inspiration from the base he set. Simply talking about loving food can never be enough. Viewers deserve better.

I hated Mumbai when I got here half a decade back. I was staying in a shithole. The only way I realised I’d get myself to embrace the city a little was with food. I’d plan entire days around it. I marked the city out with restaurants I needed to get my ass to. You know the drill – you travel two hours to eat a oil well of a salli boti because three people guarantee it’s ‘the best thing ever’. It’s mostly still an oil well with floating hunks of meat in even when you do eat it but by then you’re so hungry you truly believe it’s amazing.

 

Food kept and keeps me truly happy in Mumbai. I owe everything I know about the city to it because it’s literally the only thing that gave me incentive to see and slowly love the place for what it is. Whether that’s screaming through a line of seventy people to eat the first batch of dosas at Cafe Madras, personally wrestling away servers at Thaker’s to insist you cannot and will not eat more servings of their thali just to keep them satisfied, sitting on the pot for an entire day after overdosing on calamari at Deluxe or having the rude as hell servers at Aaswad break into a rare smile and place a sabudana wada on your table without you asking for it, actually being rendered speechless; overwhelmed after eating at the Bombay Canteen…the warmest moments I’ve had in the past half a decade have been around food. It’s helped me come to terms with enjoying being alone and learning so much about who the people around you are with every single bite you eat. 

 

Bourdain is the solitary reason why I want to write and document food and he’s the sole reason why I will not do it. I won’t offer my expertise on a subject till I know it inside out. I refuse to be a part of a culture that encourages experts who have no idea what goes into the creation of a product. I

Over the past year we’ve seen so many of our idols fall prey to their own problematic behavior. I feel no remorse for them. Fuck Louis CK, fuck Woody Allen, fuck Mario Batali and Morgan Freeman and every other person we’ve admired at one point. They don’t deserve pity or sympathy. Their work in my opinion deserves to whither. Which is what makes this particular loss hard. In Bourdain, we lose an a man who checked his privilege, corrected his faults with time and stood for what was right. His legacy stands beyond food. I don’t believe in an afterlife but for once, I really wish I did. The world would have come to stand-still to make sure to ensure he had a perfect final meal in the afterlife before moving on.

I always think of the film Ratatouille when it comes to anything about food. It was such a strange alchemy, the way Remy the rat and Anton the critic complete each other. I think of Anton’s speech at the end all the time, it’s a beautiful examination of the job of criticism (In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and theirselves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.)

 

In Bourdain, we find the yin and yang of both, Remy and Anton – creator and critic. It’s going to be incredibly hard to find a replacement and in an unexplainable way, I hope we never do.

 

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THE RULES THAT ARE OKAY TO BREAK (IF YOUR DADDY’S NET WORTH IS 12.5 BILLION FUCKING DOLLARS)

Ananya Birla (my favourite musician ever wrote a beautiful article about her struggles. I noticed the editors left out a few minor changes in their last round so I did them for her) Her original link is at the bottom.

 

elderly parent

I never really felt like I fitted in at school. That’s mostly because any school available for my education was smaller than my dog Poofy’s Monte-Carlo holiday kennel.  I wrote the words ‘misfit’, and even ‘failure’ in my diary, because I knew they’d come in handy to throw at random at Miss Malini’s salivating PR team once I buy my social media following in the future.  I didn’t comfortably fit into certain boxes or categories, because knowing that my Puhpas’s company’s net worth of forty-five billion dollars in 2015 would usually send any of my commoner friends into a coronary breakdown and because breaking the rules is a luxury I can buy from the change left in my pilates track pants, understanding my privilege and not harping on about how ‘I’ve worked hard’ never really made sense to me.

But as I’ve grown up I found that being a Forbes frequenter have served me well. I always felt compelled to shake things up, to take the road less travelled, you know – because I can reach there in my private Jet giving Ramu Kaka (my personal pilot) a three minute notice. And I believe a lot of entrepreneurs go through the same thing because it’s amazing being  tone deaf and blind; saying absolutely whatever comes to the tip of my mind. 

I would never advocate being reckless, but I think it’s time we acknowledge that there is power and value in strategically swimming against the tide, especially when you understand I AM THE TIDE (Please recite this in the same Leviathanish way Vader does when he says ‘I am your father’) Breaking the “rules” (who wrote those, anyway? lulz conglomerates like daddy’s) is sometimes the most productive thing you can do for manifesting your vision because you will fail magnificently and will need to sell your O+ blood so you can afford instant noodles, whilst I will glide through the air with the same clinical efficiency as a peregrine falcon in a dive bomb) 

Here, I decided to share the rules I broke and why you should think about breaking them too (though this can be summed up with a single ‘Cuz I can afford to, bitch’)

 “Never work with friends or family” – because your family and friends are also poor. 

 What do you want from those who work with you in accomplishing your goals: loyalty, honest communication and shared passions? DO YOU HAVE A BILLION DOLLARS THO? NO?!?!? SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SLAVE AWAY YOU EEKIE COMMONER. Ugh. 

 I’ve found that the candidness, dedication, and the shared passions I have with my closest crew of friends has made them ideal colleagues. I understand that all of them are lying scumbag yes-men because if anyone had heard the travesty of a first song I produced (which I hear they regularly use now in both Guantanamo Bay and ISIS as a persuasive torture technique), they would have threatened me with harakiri before letting me publish it.   They get me, they get what I’m trying to create (lol) – mostly a parody of what would happen if baboons hit random keys on a piano if they’re starved for a week. When one of us succeeds (me) – we all succeed (also me). When it comes to my music, I need to be comfortable enough to expose myself creatively, to be ‘vulnerable’- a term I have heard of in the movie Love Actually and always wanted to experience but was shocked when Harrods said they don’t sell it wholesale.  The trust I have with my friends (and the eight digits that sing a Opera-esque melody when I swipe my black platinum debit card) make them the ideal people to help with my musical career. I forget sometimes that my name brought me to open for Coldplay whilst musicians who have sold their spleens to fund one final trip to Mood Indigo hoping they’d get noticed watched in utter shock, willing to blind themselves with a pitchfork than seeing Devraj Sanyal hiccup his way through calling me a musician online. 

 “Follow the crowd, don’t fight the current trends”

 When I had the idea for Svatantra, the public in India didn’t think very much of the microfinance industry. Microfinance means loaning small amounts of money at fair and affordable rates so rural women with little to spare can grow their businesses. But there were a lot of organisations around going by the name of ‘microfinance‘, who loaned money at extortionate rates. That tainted the industry’s reputationBut I believed in the potential benefits of microfinance – when it’s done RIGHT. Though I am doing fantastic work here, I feel like I forget hundreds of entrepreneurs who have had similar ideas have been asked to brand their backsides with a ‘I will say yes to every clause save sucking dick’ to get a measly round of funding allocated in return for a gigantic chunk of the business and one of horcruxes they had to make to get through it.

 When it comes to any business, you’re playing the long game. I come up with these gems of utterly obvious advice watching Suits and reruns of The Wire in my jacuzzi made from the remains of the Lighthouse of Alexandria (purana wala, haan) Five years on, Svatantra is thriving and so are many of the women who benefited from our approach to microfinance. Our customers speak for themselves, and their success is shifting the way people view microfinance. (TBH, Svatantra is pretty cool and it has helped a ton of women, so credit where it’s due well done AB. I’d never want to belittle her efforts with mental health or micro financing female entrepreneurs . She’s done amazing work there. Let’s move on to stuff I don’t feel bad taking a dig at)

 Don’t dream too big” – Teri aukat thodi hi hai.

I was obsessed with music ever since I was young. But even when I was at college, performing regularly and writing my own material, I was still scared to tell other people that this was what I wanted to do with my life because they would have rightly fallen on their knees and begged me to leave the guitar at Furtados. It’s so important to realise that life is short and in order to be happy we must do what we’re really passionate about, especially when I, unlike y’all can afford to resurrect Jimi Hendrix for a remedial tutorial in how to tune a guitar. My dream is to be the first Indian artist to break into the commercial international music arena. Has it been done before? No. Does that mean it’s impossible to buy? Certainly not! Do you know what is possible in a paltry four million dollars? I’ll tell you. I can host my OWN FUCKING NH7 and NOT RELY ON A COMEDY COLLECTIVE TO LAUNCH FUTURE HEADLINING ACTS VIA YOUTUBE. BTW ON A SIDE NOTE HONESTLY, HOW MANY TIMES WILL RAGHU DIXIT DANCE TO LOKADA KADAJI BEFORE THE PUNE CROWD GETS BORED.

When I decided to set up Svatantra, I was just 17 and people told me I was dreaming., because that’s an age when normal people hallucinate into oblivion looking at the EMI’s on college loans. 

 Only you know if you have the fortitude and inner resources (See how I played this card) to withstand failure or criticism. In my case my AMEX card acts like a ‘protego’ like shield so I have never experienced either. I hear several Muslims went to Haj specially to beg the prophet, peace be upon him to never have me produce a song again.  That’s when I unleashed ‘Meant to Be’ – the song that made the Gallagher brothers unite and Key and Peele split.

Bots are beginning to respond really positively to my work, my last song went platinum in India via the hard work put in by teenagers employed by clickfarms in Tuvalu and we had loads of radio plays and streams from around the world (other farms in Mozambique, Djibouti, Mauritius, etc). 

When you begin writing a song it can be intimidating, just you and a blank page and in my case absolutely not the slightest mirage of talent. But amazing producers across the world stepped forward to work with me (I wonder why sometimes, it baffles me), from Atlanta to Oslo, and now I have four songs coming out early next year that…let me just say if you found my last two songs bad – this lot is going to make those bad boys look like Gimme Shelter and Yellow Submarine.

“Work day and night. Your vision should completely consume you.” 

Now see you guys, I have a brunch reservation waiting for me at the new Noma and Rene Redzepi’s going to personally feed me hand fished molluscs covered with truffle oil. Work hard and all okay? Love you bye xoxo

This guest post was edited for posterity by Sumedh Natu and is an article of satire)

 

Here’s the original – http://www.mscareergirl.com/2018/01/01/the-rules-that-its-okay-to-break/

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ARNAB GOSWAMI’S SILENCE

Hey guys,

A lot of people followed the blog a couple of years back and I haven’t been that regular writing anymore. I’ve been meaning to write to the few of you who’d wait for posts just explaining what I’m doing, but I haven’t and I apologise for that. I’ll be doing that very soon. I have however, taken my articles to video and I’ve been trying to create a Nerdwriter1, Every Frame A Painting, Crashcourse format here in India that’ll benefit our content. This is the pilot of that effort.

I hope you guys like it. Your feedback is ever welcome.

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