KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Comedian Kavin Jay, who has his own Netflix original stand-up comedy show, says it still feels surreal being in the same pool of other renowned comedians such as Russell Peters, Kevin Hart and Chris Tucker.
“When I started comedy 12 years ago and if someone asked me what my end goal is, it would be to have an international stand-up comedy special with the greats,” he told Malay Mail.
Even more surprising to the 38-year-old is the fact that his show, Everybody Calm Down, is a hit with international audiences from places far and wide such as Peru, Venezuela and Iceland.
“I get messages everyday from all over the world and I feel like I’ve brought Malaysian humour out to all these places — I feel proud.
“It’s also a little sad because I get more messages abroad than from here, everyone here knows one comic and that’s Harith Iskander,” he said.
A former marine engineer, Kavin was intrigued by stand-up comedy while he was studying in the United Kingdom but never gave it a shot until his brother Dheepak passed away suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 29.
“That’s when I realised life is too short. So what I did was round up 150 of my friends at a pub and decided to tell jokes,” he said.
His maiden attempt bombed but since then, Kavin has honed his craft by learning about stage presence and structuring his narrative and has performed at the Mumbai Pajama Comedy Festival, Singapore Fringe Festival and Perth Fringe Festival to name a few.
Initially, Kavin was worried that his jokes on Everybody Calm Down would only appeal to Malaysians, Singaporeans and some South-east Asian countries but the overwhelming response is proof that Malaysian humour can be exported.
“I learnt that humour is universal, if you delve into a Malaysian stereotype too much, not many people will get it but if you give enough contexts it becomes universal,” he explained.
Unlike many emerging Malaysian comedians who take the easy route of racial stereotyping, Kavin said he prefers to avoid racial profiling.
“There is a misconception that race jokes are the go-to to make a Malaysian laugh but I disagree, I think it is way deeper than that.
“After a while, the stereotypes are the same and I realised that replacing whichever ethnic group to Malaysian, I can take this anywhere,” he said.
For Kavin, who is known as Malaysia’s grumpiest comedian for his emotionally charged complaints, he prefers to connect with audiences using emotions and awkward situations that most people can relate to.
“The audience in Malaysia has evolved and we’ve reached a point where we want to laugh at ourselves and go for skin deep jokes, not the colour of our skin,” he said.
Though his Netflix original has no shortage of political incorrectness, Kavin said it was important for comedians to draw the line to avoid being on the wrong side of the law.
“I read a quote that says, ‘If society is taking their comedians seriously but they laugh at their politicians, something is wrong’.
“I make fun of the situation so instead of making fun of politicians, I make fun of politics,” explained Kavin.
Despite Kavin’s bubbly disposition, fans might be surprised to know the father of one does not fare so well in social situations, unlike his stage persona.
Don’t get him wrong, he is still incredibly effervescent in person.
“The worst thing for me is after a show when I have to interact with people, people think they’re best friends with me and they want to tell me their life story – I don’t really want to hear and I’m not bothered about your grandmother.
“After a show, I just want to lock myself in the toilet and cry but I’m slowly working on it,” he said.
Kavin is currently working on new material for a few shows and hopes to break into Hollywood.
“I’m writing myself as a recurring character instead of the main character and hopefully more will come,” he said.
Kavin Jay: Everybody Calm Down is now streaming on Netflix.