Apr 27 2011 By Jack Griffith
OFF the back of sell-out shows at the Indigo2 last year, veteran comedian Paul Chowdhry is about to embark on his debut national stand-up tour, 'Not PC.' With a starring role in a feature film due to hit cinemas nationwide this summer, 2011 is set to be his breakthrough year. JACK GRIFFITH spoke to the Londoner ahead of his date at the Beck Theatre next Wednesday.
Paul Chowdhry may not be a name that rings bells with mass TV audiences, but he is no stranger to those plugged into the capital's cut-throat comedy 'circuit', having quietly plied his trade for more than a decade.
Fresh out of university and starting out in stand-up in 1998, he has since built up a loyal underground following and gained international acclaim.
Chowdhry was born and raised in Edgware, and speaking about his early comedic influences, he said: "When I was growing up, I was watching all kinds of comedy from the late 70s to the 80s.
"I didn’t really look at them and think they’re not Indian; I just thought it was funny. Morecambe and Wise, Benny Hill, and lots of American stand-up on cassette from Bill Cosby to Richard Pryor.
"There wasn’t Asian comedy when I was growing up. I believe comedy is colour blind.
"So when I was funny, it was just with my friends. I wasn’t doing Asian jokes, I was just being me."
He added that his quick wit often got him into trouble at school.
"When the teacher would ask a question in class and I would reply, other children would receive this with hysteria.
"'That wasn't supposed to be funny' was always my response, and most of the lessons were spent outside of the classroom.
"At that point I knew I had a gift I needed to take to the people no matter how many teachers tried to stop me."
His 'gift' has seen him travel the world and scoop a bevy of industry awards, and he has recently enlisted the services of leading promoter Phil McIntyre, who has helped launch the careers of Russell Brand, Peter Kay, and Ricky Gervais, amongst others.
The 37 year-old's stock is already on the rise, and he is looking ahead to the release of romantic comedy Swinging with the Finkels in June, starring The Office's Martin Freeman and singer-slash-actress Mandy Moore.
Before that, however, is the pressing matter of a 24-date national tour. Entitled 'Not PC', Chowdhry picks apart social norms and absurdities in everyday life, as well as touching on topical hot potatoes such as racial differences, religion and international terrorism.
Not one to shy away from sensitive subjects, he nevertheless shrugs off the 'controversial' tag often assigned to him, and insists that his comedy simply follows the classic tradition of providing an escape.
"For me, nothing is off limits, but it has to be handled in the right way. Like anything, it's not going to be to everyone's taste, but the way I see it, it is better to address something and speak about it than totally ignore it."
His ability to touch on the often-thorny subject of race perhaps derives from his standpoint as a British Indian comic, but he insists that his material transcends racial boundaries.
He said: "Britain is a real melting pot, and the crowds are always very mixed, but as a country we are very reserved when it comes to talking about race.
"When I travel to America, everything is segregated – one night I will be playing to a black room, the next to a Hispanic room, then to a white room, but they are a lot more open about the cultural differences. I have always been able to play to all kinds of crowds."
No stranger to dealing with hecklers with 'mad freestyle skills' and feeding off the audience's reaction, he promises that no two shows will be the same.
"It's very different to playing in a club – it's more like a concert, and I think with a live show, people want to see you push the limit.
"I don’t get bored therefore the audience don’t get bored and fall asleep. Although this is known to happen, which can only add to the comedy!"
"History in the making as it’s the biggest ever tour from a British Indian stand-up. I’m now the biggest selling British Indian comedian in the UK. That’s quiet an achievement because the other two British Indian comedians are part time."
Paul Chowdhry Not PC comes to the Beck Theatre on Wednesday, May 4 at 8pm and tickets cost £16. For more information call the box office on 020 8561 8371 or visit www.becktheatre.org.uk