Sundeep Rao admits, with a bit of restraint, that he has been in a good mindset the last four months. He is aware of how the pandemic has wreaked havoc worldwide — hence the restraint — but it has allowed him to pause and reflect on his life and career.
“We usually get caught up in the conversations we have with ourselves and others,” he says, “We rarely stop and ask ourselves ‘why do we do what we do?’. The last few months allowed me to think about this.”
This clarity of thought led him to his latest project.
While several of his colleagues in stand-up comedy have been active on YouTube and other video streaming platforms, he’s started a Spotify podcast. In Life Gone Wrong, Sundeep, who is partially blind, shares stories of people who have lived with disabilities, survived life threatening illnesses or faced other adversities.
The Bengaluru-based creator discusses the podcast, trolling of comedians on social media and other topics with MetroPlus.
What prompted you to come up with a podcast?
For a standup comedian here, it is mostly about having shows on Amazon or Netflix or doing tours… Sometimes, the stories you want to tell can get lost in all these views, numbers and business. I wanted to tell stories without much interference. Podcasts allow me to do that. Also, I don’t think visually. The audio format works better for me. I also consume a lot of audio books. Over the last two years, I have been listening to podcasts as well. I have another podcast (The Babybed started in 2019) where I discuss various topics.
India had a big radio culture before TV became mainstream. Podcasts are still relatively new in India. Do you think they will have a big audience soon?
I think so. Radio is still popular in many places. Of course, with plenty of streaming options available, people are in awe of video content. But once that settles, people will consume podcasts as well. Some people I met have said, “Binge-watching hurts my eyes and gives me a headache.” I feel the story is more important than the medium. So, if the story and the storyteller are good, a podcast can have the same effect as other media.
The tone of Life Gone Wrong is more inspiring than funny…
Yeah. I don’t want to be typecast as a comedian. I want to be known as a storyteller. I have neither tried to force humour into Life Gone Wrong nor make it too preachy. The conversation is organic. Basically I tell stories of people who have faced disabilities or other hardships and the attitude they have towards life.
If you were to pick a defining moment from your life, what would it be?
It was in 2013, when I started doing stand-up full-time. I was sceptical of talking about my disability in my shows because I thought people won’t like that. As I was just partially blind, I didn’t appear to have a disability. But I was uncomfortable hiding it. That is when a friend of mine, a psychiatrist, told me, “It is up to you whether you want to talk about it. But it is an aspect of your life. You can’t not have it.” That changed my perspective. Everyone in the room [the audience] has their own vulnerabilities. But by sharing mine, I become bullet-proof in a way.
A few standup comedians got trolled and abused on social media last week. Do these incidents affect you when you prepare for your next performance?
Of course. I don’t live in a bubble. I decided early in my career not to talk about religion and politics. Because what you say to a small audience in a room today, can later reach a larger group of people. And, not all of them have the intellectual maturity to take a joke. It can be taken out of context. You will receive hateful tweets and even physical threats. So, I’d rather stick to sharing stories from my own experiences.