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Friday, 18 January 2013 13:04

Sanjeev Moheeputh – The Laugh Spinner

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Comedians are a rare breed of people. They are quick on their feet and can provoke laughter while giving insight and truth or just acting plain dumb. Sanjeev Moheeputh, the ‘Anu Ryé’ man is one such comedian and is also a household name.
On stage and in front of the camera, he’s affable and disarming, yet behind his jovial everyman public persona there are glimpses of another Sanjeev Moheeputh- the ‘serious’ one. This week News on Sunday invites you to discover the man who conquers through laughter.

Date of birth: November 12 (I am 45 years old+ VAT)
Profession: Comedian
Passion: Story telling
School attended: DAV. I studied till form 5 when I realised that education is important but in comedy my heart lies. I wanted to develop it. What I am doing now is the real ME.
bMyself. A saddening fact is that a French comedian will charge Rs 2,000 for his show, and people will flock to it. But when a Mauritian artiste prices his ticket at Rs 200, people find it expensive. And we Mauritian comedians are better because we hail from a particular background and culture that only someone who belongs here will understand.
Childhood memories: At 15, people already knew me as a storyteller. One night, there was an orchestra playing at Plaine des Papayes. It stopped. I took my chance and went on stage. I held the audience focused for 4 hours. It was magical. Even those who had already gone to sleep came back to listen to me.
I hate: Fast driving and firecrackers.
People who had an influence in my life: None. I created my own path. In fact I would say, God created me because He loves to listen to stories.
Dream Destination: Anywhere in the world with many Mauritian immigrants. I want to perform in such a place. But it’s difficult. A comedian cannot exist in Mauritius without sponsors. No comedian can succeed on his own. I thank all my sponsors who helped me in my journey.
Allergic to: Vain people who do not like to laugh!

How seriously do you take your art?
I am always on the look-out for stories to tell. Comedy is the most serious thing of my life. Comedy is no joke. I try to work on new material at most of the gigs I do. I have sleepless nights just to create new materials. I would get incredibly boring doing the same thing every time. I stress myself to ‘de-stress’ people. I feel happy to bring laughter to a world where corruption, crimes and accidents are the order of the day.
The most important thing for me is my audience. Artists tend to be egocentric because they are up on the stage while the audience is down. But I see it differently. I see it as in a weight balance: I am up because I don’t weigh much.

Is it easier to make people laugh or cry?
Definitely not! It is harder to make people laugh. Humour is difficult. Comedy is notoriously tricky, and the subjectivity of humour is only part of the problem. And my aim is to make people laugh without hurting anybody’s feelings in the process. From feedback that I get, children adore me. The son of an old lady suffering from Alzheimer called me to say that his mother ‘reacts’ only when she sees my shows. I am a humoristic healer. The rewards are so huge that it’s incredibly addictive.

How do you test-out your stand-up material?
As a rule, I am a serious person. People usually ask me - “Are you that same person who makes people laugh on TV? You look so serious!” So I do not test my material on anybody. If I can find something I can myself laugh at, I don’t see why the audience won’t laugh.

Do you think we are a humourless society, especially when it comes to laughing at ourselves? Do you see the future of humour as dim?
Mauritians are not being able to laugh. Those who laugh are the ones who pay to laugh (By going to shows). But when I go to perform on birthdays, some people laugh their heads off while others are rigid. They do not laugh and they are not even interested to listen. Some people just do not like to laugh. The future is not as good. Humourless societies suffer from more than just a lack of laughs. The yawning absence of humour in some quarters may deliver its own set of calamitous consequences for civility. Without humour, civility cannot flourish. But then I am a perfectionist and I will not give up so easily.

Do you practise your facial expressions?
Not at all. It comes naturally. I have to mention that I never followed any professional training and neither have I ever rehearsed in front of the mirror for my one-man-shows.

Where does your inspiration come from?
My secret is to observe. I take mundane situations, add my own spice and make it absurd, because people look for that absurdity.

Do you feel comedians have a role in shaping how Mauritians feel about national and international events? How do you personally perceive the role of a comedian within society?
Without humour, civility cannot flourish. My stories carry a certain message. You listen to them and laugh, but above all, they will push you to think. They are funny yet educative. They cut across the barriers of race, religion, age and colour.

A joke before parting?
A girl of standard 3 wakes up in the morning and calls her teacher.
Girl: “Miss, miss, did you call me last night?
Teacher: “No.”
Girl: “Are you sure, miss?”
Teacher: “Of course!”
Girl: “But I saw “miss call” written!”
Mumtaz Soogund

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