Stand-up comic with cerebral palsy Jai Chhaniyara believes in clean comedy free of vulgarity
Jai Chhaniyara was just six years old when his family discovered his gift for making people laugh. It’s a skill that Jai has developed over the years to make a name for himself in the competitive Indian stand-up comedy scene.
Jai Chhaniyara gave his first public performance when he was seven years old. Present in the audience were members of his residential society who were laughing out loud, bowled over by a child’s ability to deliver punchlines with perfect timing.
What they didn’t know was that Jai did not understand the lines he was delivering. He was simply repeating them from an audio cassette his older brother had gifted him a year ago.
“I was born with cerebral palsy and while recovering from a surgery in hospital my brother gave me this cassette of jokes”, says Jai, who is now 24 years old. “I loved hearing the sound of people’s laughter and memorised the lines and repeated them. I had no idea what they meant but loved the reactions”.
Got hooked to comedy as a child
Jai’s family was thrilled by his interest and encouraged him, motivated by the desire to keep his spirits up. “I was struggling a lot due to my disability and my family did not want me to be affected mentally. I was in and out of hospitals frequently. It was a hard time for all of us”.
When Jai went public during Navratri celebrations in his housing society, the laughter from a live audience got him hooked. Since then he has grown to create original jokes in Gujarati and Hinglish (mix of Hindi and English). He was just 10 years old when he performed on national TV on the Indian Laughter Challenge. He went on to appear in four episodes of popular Hindi serial Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah. Today he ahas a huge following in the Hindi and Gujarati comedy scene.
I love doing clean comedy that is free of vulgarity and curse words. I like cracking jokes that families can enjoy together without feeling embarrassed or conscious. I draw inspiration from popular comedians like Johnny Lever and love Paresh Rawal’s performances. Charlie Chaplin is someone I greatly admire because he rose from such hard circumstances to entertain the world. – Jai Chhaniyara, Comedian with cerebral palsy
This quality of Jai’s humour has won him a steady fan following. Among those who closely tracks his shows is businessman Kaushal Sheth.
Inspired by older comedians
“I noticed Jai when he did the Laughter Challenge and later when he appeared on the Star Plus series Baa Bahoo Aur Baby”, says Kaushal, who lives in Mumbai. “During the lockdown I came across some of his shows online and tried contacting him”. Kaushal loves Jai’s comedy style. “Today there’s a thin line between pure comedy and vulgarity. I like his style because it is like that of the older generation of Gujarati comedians. The comedy is not only funny but has a positive message”.
Jai had moved to Mumbai from Rajkot just before the lockdown to further his career prospects. Now he is back home doing performances on Zoom. “I am trying to stay active with online shows. 2020 is the year to work on ideas and hone my comedy routine as the pandemic has put an end to any live shows. I am being positive about this and see it as an opportunity to get better”.
Jai has an 80% disability and faces many challenges going about day to day tasks. But he is determined not to let this come in the way of his career. “I was in a wheelchair for a long time and can now walk with the help of a stick thanks to surgery and physiotherapy. I believe that disability is not in the body but in the mind. There’s a reason why disabled are also called specially abled. It’s because we can do things that others cannot. It gives us special powers and the motivation to do better”.
Watch in Sign Language
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