Ramraj Gogna at Westside 89.6 FM talks to Paul Chowdhry about his upcoming DVD – What’s Up White People
The Fan Carpet are delighted to bring you this interview with Paul Chowdhry, conducted by our presenter Ramraj Gogna who hosts the entertainment show every Sunday between 10am and 12 noon on – which can be found on the web at Westside Radio and on the FM dial at 89.6 FM.
Ramraj was especially excited to interview this hilarious British Stand-Up comedian because he’s interviewed him previously – the last time being at a venue in West London.
Ramraj welcomed Paul with his customary ‘virtual high five’ on August 21 and they talk about Paul’s time at the Edinburgh Festival and his upcoming DVD release – What’s Happening White People? which is available to pre-order here.
How are you finding the Edinburgh Festival?
It’s going well, I’m up here for the whole month.
Are you eating lots of Haggis?
I did try the vegetarian Haggis, but I think Haggis is just the Scottish version of the kebab.
Not even the Donor Kebab, it just seems to have it all mixed in there.
It must be pretty cool performing at the Edinburgh Festival, it’s a very beautiful city?
Yeah, it is. It’s a amazing city,there are castles and everything. I’ve been coming up here for over ten years now, I’ve done my one man show, plays and this is my forth Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh is the place to be for Comedy, it’s the biggest comedy festival in the world.
You have something really exciting coming up in the pipeline, can you tell us about that?
The show is called What’s Happening White People, I was a regular on this year’s Stand Up for the Week on Channel 4, and when I would come out I’d say ‘what’s Happening White People and it kinda stuck and became a catchphrase.
Then I did the O2 Arena with Lee Evans, Michael Mcintyre and Jonathan Ross for Great Ormond Street Hospital and I did it there, and it got picked up by Universal Pictures. So now Universal Pictures are producing and releasing my DVD.
Doing the Great Ormond Street gig that must have been really special?
Yeah, it was amazing there were twenty thousand people there and it was on Channel 4 and I helped build them a new wing at Great Ormond Street. Obviously everything went to the charity and it really made a difference at the hospital.
It’s a cause close to my heart so I thought it would really help the kids out there, and it worked! It’s a big show, the biggest showcase in this country.
This new show ‘What’s Happening White People’ give us a bit of a feel of it?
Basically I do two hours at the Hammersmith Apollo, come on the 22nd September and you’ll see me do about two hours there, which will probably be cut down to an hour and a half on the DVD which will be available in November. There are already pre sales of it on various websites.
Basically it talks about some of my up bringing cause I was born in the seventies, in fact today is my birthday (August 21).
A big happy birthday, let me ask you this how do you feel?
I think we age daily rather than one day a year , yo feel younger on the day and the older the next day I think.
Your comedy, and it’s what I really like about you is that you are very direct and you cut through the ice…
Yeah. I do tackle difficult subject matters or what some people would call controversial. Like my Dad came over in the sixties and I was born in the seventies so I talk about how life was then and compare it with now.
Some things people will relate to and my personal stories and how Racism is looked at now, I put in things in Punjabi and sort of all the things people love me for I’ve put in there. It’s the first time that a British-Asian has released a Stand-Up DVD in history.
You must be excited to be playing the Apollo?
Yeah. That’s for the DVD, so it hasn’t been done yet, then the week after I record Live at the Apollo for the BBC.
Oh cool, that must be really exciting?
Yeah, so I’m also doing that this year which will air on BBC One.
You’ve got so many legends that have performed at the Apollo, so you must be excited, it’s a nice venue for comedians isn’t it?
Yeah. Michael Mcintyre is a very good friend of mine, I performed at the O2 with him, we started off together. Him and Jimmy Carr, and we just have to support each other, Mcintyre has that among his but we Asian’s don’t do that.
So when I see these young Asian Stand-Up comedians, it’s good to support them and push them in the right direction.
With the Apollo and you DVD coming in November, you are seen as a trailblazer for Asian comedians, tell us how you got into it?
Yeah, I did a bit of drama and i did a media studies degree, but the problem is there’s nothing that can train you to become a Stand-Up. Jimmy Carr did do courses in Stand-Up, and then became a Stand-Up, so you can do courses but there’s nothing to train you, but there is nothing that can train you, you still have to get out there and do it.
I grew up in the eighties and there were no Asian’s or Black People on TV, there were a few, but not many and no Asians and if they were on TV they were made fun of.
The kind of comedy I grew up with were things like Bruce Forsythe which I found funny and entertaining, that comedy with Richard Prior was popular in the sixties and seventies and then you’ve got into the modern day with Chris Rock. It hasn’t happened with Asian comedy yet.
What age were you when you knew you wanted to do this professionally?
I always wanted to do it, but you don’t know it’s going to be a profession. When I was about seventeen I first thought about doing it, but it’s not something you know that you can make a profession, you can’t plan it, you don’t know how the audience are going to take to you.
It’s not like being a musician where you do track after track, it’s much harder than that.
And what were your Mum and Dad like? Were they cool with you wanting to enter the world of comedy?
Yeah, they were very supportive. I went to Uni and got my degree and then I went about pursing this, and where I was doing part time jobs I’d continue with it in the evenings, like me and Jimmy Carr woud show up at places and do three shows a night; getting stage time and then within a year I got a slot at The Comedy Store which is in London, and gradually you get more bookings and you start doing the circuit. After that I did my one man show, then I did a tour last year and now I’ve got the DVD with Universal Pictures, so it’s a progression really.
I ask everyone in the entertainment business this cause I find it fascinating, do you ever get stage fright?
Yeah, you get a little bit nervous before you go on, but when you don’t get nervous you worry thinking ‘hey am I not nervous? I need to get nervous to thrive off the adrenaline.
You need to find the perfect balance, you get nervous but energetic at the same time don’t you?
Yeah, you don’t want to get too nervous where you cant speak. I spoke to some comics, so really big comics like Lee Evans and you seen his energy on stage, and he doesn’t eat before a show.
Who were your big idols as a kid, who did you look up to?
A lot of the British like Bruce Forsythe and then some of the Americans like Richard Prior and Eddie Murphy, there’s a lot of other American comics that you many not have heard of that grew out of Saturday Night Live.
It’s funny you mentioned Eddie Murphy, cause I just watched Trading Places again and there are some truly laugh out loud moments, Eddie Murphy is just fantastic.
Yeah, there was rumours that he was coming back to Stand-Up, but if he does come back, he’ll be doing the stuff of today rather than what he did back then, you can’t really get away with that stuff anymore.
He did RAW when he was twenty two, Saturday Night Live made him – after that he went into the movies and just never came back.
Saturday Night Live is like the biggest showcase they’ve got over there.
It would be cool if there was a British version of Saturday Night Live…
I think they tried it, they did it a while ago, but it didn’t really kick off, I think you can YouTube it, it was with Ben Elton, but it didn’t really get anywhere.
One of my idols, not just comedy, is Robin Williams. Back in the day you had Mork and Mindy then various other things, what’s your take on Robin Williams?
Yeah, I like Robin Williams, he was around when richard Prior was, he was one of the regular cast members on Saturday Night Live, then in the early eighties and then he had a drug infused life so he was part of that scene, and now he comes ace to Stand-Up every now and again.
This is a guy that’s had an incredible career for a lifetime.
I think one of the guys to take the baton on is Jim Carrey, some of the stuff he does is hilarious isn’t it?
I wouldn’t say new baton cause that guy has been around for a long time, and now there are new guys like Galifianakis, Jim Carrey I wouldn’t consider a new comic.
For me Jim Carrey is kind of the reincarnation of Robin Williams…
Yeah, there is quite a lot of those guys with the high energy, but that’s all in America, we haven’t done that here yet, the equivalent would be Lee Evans.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Well I suppose it’s being in front of twenty thousand people at the O2 Arena, that was the highlight cause we built the new wing at Great Ormond Street, so that meant a lot, more than any money you could have earned.
Looking to the future; who would you love to work with anywhere in the world?
That’s the thing with Stand-Up, you are usually on your own, I think that works better with musicians and films, but in Stand-Up you kind of just do bigger showcases. Cause it’s not really a double act in Stand-Up, so I’ve not really thought about it before.
Do you have any passions to get into films?
Yeah, I did a film last year with Jerry Stiller – Ben’s dad and Mandy Moore, Melissa George and Martin Freeman that came out in America called Swinging with the Finkels.
How did you find that experience?
It was great! Whenever I get the parts in films I jump at them, people have asked me to play cameos here and there, I’ve worked with Jay Sean, he was one of the ones to jump on my YouTube sketches and people like that. It’s nice to see Asian’s taking it a step further and taking it forward in the main stream.
What advice would you give young people who want to break into Stand-Up?
I’d say to just gotta do it you know, you’ve gotta go out there and live the dream, you can’t just do a job that you won’t enjoy doing, you just gotta go for it. Even if you’ve got to do something part time, you’ve just got to push forward and do it.
Even if it’s just on the side like if you want to be a DJ or something like that.
You are very passion about what you do I can hear that in your voice…
Yeah, comedy isn’t really a job, it’s a necessity, you’ve just gotta get out there and do it, it’s not really a lifestyle, it’s within you. You’ve gotta live what you do.
Paul Chowdhry’s What’s Up White People? is happening on September 22 at the Hammersmith Apollo and his DVD will be available at the end of November, you can pre-order it here.