The Comic Prodigy

It was a seemingly ordinary February evening, when a bunch of office goers huddled on the narrow, red carpeted steps of Courtyard Playhouse. Dubai’s very own community theater hidden in the arty lanes of upcoming Al Quoz was hosting it’s first ever King Gong. Tired from the day’s corporate shenanigans, the visitors were polite, nodding and smiling warmly if not generously. It was a biggish night where a group of city-based comedians would be competing with each other for a cardboard crown, a certificate that has no official value and a bunch of perfectly ripe bananas. There was also a popcorn stand and a man in a gorilla suit but thats a story for another day.

Essentially we were there to catch JD Laljani in action for the first time and we decided to warm the front row seats. Someone made a joke about Tinder, someone ran around the stage in theatrical delight and then there was JD. Dressed in a grey blazer and a black T-shirt, he looked like he was coming from a photo-shoot.
While other 17-year-olds were busy rebelling against parental institutions and lamenting over broken hearts, homegrown Dubai boy JD Laljani had landed in Chicago a few years ago. An improv class and living in one of the Second Citys hip neighborhoods, made him turn his adolescent years of watching comedy on TV , into an art he had his heart set on. Laughter is one of the few things on this earth that you cant fake. It is a great creative outlet to be able to get on stage and make people laugh.

Someone once told me: there are three aspects of comedy: Material, Delivery and a Connection with the Audience. You have to have two out of three in your pocket to be good at Comedy.

For a 25 -year-old, JD Laljani is far ahead of his times. Nothing about his demeanour carries the carelessness or triviality that twenty-something year olds indulge in.

Being in the improv-dense scene of Chicago influenced JD in a life-changing way. “Most of my inspiration has come out of watching other comedians, you have to find the humor and irony at everything that happens around you. It’s not just about making fun of things but doing it in an almost poetic and thoughtful way.”

His stage persona, who stood calmly with his hands into the ironed pockets of his tailored suit was a bit like the Bond of Comedy; mysterious and deep. “Someone once told me: there are three aspects of comedy: Material, Delivery and a Connection with the Audience. You have to have two out of three in your pocket to be good at Comedy. I can write well but I don’t have the greatest connection with the audience because that is not the type of comedy I write and therefore my delivery has to be really crisp. I speak slowly and use silence to my advantage, because a lot of things I say are not funny off the bat, you have to give the audience time to think it over.”

“I wasn’t funny as a kid, I wasn’t the class clown type. Humor and comedy cannot be taught, but it can be observed and picked up as you grow. I learnt comedy from the thousands of hours of stand up I have watched and gotten inspiration from. I like my comedy to be really smart and intelligent because that is the style I am drawn to. If you are a class clown, you are funny but you don’t necessarily become a great comedian… there is humor in both but the context is completely different.”

As the night wore on, JD survived two rounds of the cruel red cards that made the man-in-the-gorilla-suit, escort the comic off the stage. His material was fresh, oscillating between his Indian roots and  International news. Like the others, he finally succumbed to a woman in black boots who told jokes about her marital bedroom but we doubt he wanted to compete with that. “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because I thought of something funny. I have these random notes on my phone that are all fly-by material inspiration. I also listen to a lot of podcasts. The way you are raised, your brain has certain social constraints, which you are unaware of. But listening to the way other comedians think, opens your mind to new avenues of thought. The one thing you have to be certain about in comedy is that your material, your take on stuff, is original and honest. It doesn’t have to be factually true, the stories can be exaggerated and imagined, but the substance behind everything you say has to be something you strongly believe in.

With a part of his heart still left somewhere in the prolific streets of Chicago, JD Laljani has made his way back to his home in the desert, adding to the growing landscape of comedy in the city; holding out hope that no matter how many critics talk of the frivolous fancies of Dubai, young artists will always find a way to do incredible things. And there will always be an equally dedicated audience following them around, letting them add color to their otherwise steel-grey lives.



JD Laljani
JD Laljani is currently found on most comedy nights around Dubai. For now, you can connect with him on Facebook here.

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