A musician, filmmaker, and comedian – Kenneth Sebastian has tried his hand at several things he is passionate about. Having started when he was just a student of Class 11, Kenny had the chance to develop his skills in all these fields and look back to decide what he liked the most. And stand-up comedy it was – the field he chose to pursue and succeed in. One look at his YouTube channel and his easily relatable jokes will tell the amazing story of his journey.
From a defence background, Kenny spent a lot of his school years shifting cities before his family settled down in Bengaluru when his father retired. A graduate from an arts school, he developed an interest in filmmaking at a young age and then moved to music and comedy.
He performed on stage for the first time at the age of 19 and hasn’t stopped since. TBI spoke to the comedian about the challenges, his journey, and more.
On the experience of shifting schools quite often as he spent his school days in different cities:
There are only two ways you kinda deal with moving so much at a young age. You realise that there is no point in making friends and give up OR you choose to take the effort to adapt to every new city and do your best to make the most of it. So at a young age, I developed the habit of consciously connecting with people as soon as I meet them and have relationships built faster.
One rib-tickling, embarrassing incident from childhood that he still remembers:
Well it’s a story my mom keeps telling me. So apparently, from a young age, I have had the knack of cooking up really creative stories. So when I was in Class 1, my teacher asked me for my homework book. I confidently said “Madam, I would love to give you my homework but for some reason my father has taken all my books to his office. So I don’t have it with me right now.” My teacher was so impressed with such a unique answer that she called up my mom and told her what I had said. My mom and dad still talk about it.
On the coolest thing about making films, given that he started filmmaking early in life:
To be honest, filmmaking made me feel like my energy and focus belonged somewhere. From a young age I loved drawing and sketching but even my art teacher was very strict and never let me do anything in school. I loved to sing but my school “discouraged” western music. So in Class 10 when I started shooting videos and editing them, it was after a long time I was genuinely excited to do something. It gave me a purpose; made me feel useful.
Also film lets me used all my skills in one medium – music, acting, writing and composition.
That moment when he decided or realized he wanted to take up stand-up comedy:
Well unfortunately there was no turning point in my life when suddenly stand-up comedy found me. It was a very gradual process. First in school I wanted to get over stage fright, and then in college I took up theatre. Then I did music live for two years and finally stumbled into comedy. The true moment was after a couple of years when I graduated from college and looked back at everything I have put my fingers into – stand-up comedy seemed the most fun.
On his parents’ support in this journey:
I have been super lucky and blessed that my parents were always supportive of what I did. But I also feel that because I started freelancing and making money from a young age (Class 11), I became financially independent by first year in college. By the time I graduated from college, I was making more than a lakh a month by just doing freelance corporate films, which I did in parallel to studying.
So when I told them I wanted to pursue comedy full time, I had already proved it to them that I was financially independent doing what I love and would succeed at this new venture. Most Indian parents “seem” unsupportive because the children themselves don’t show behaviour to inspire confidence in their parents. Most kids want to pursue photography, dance, singing, film, etc. without having a clue about how they are going to make a living of it. Parents genuinely care about you hence sometimes they might seem like they are coming in your way.
With so many tours across the world, one travel experience he will always remember:
Easily the two-month trip I did with Abish Mathew when I went to New York. We did classes together on comedy. Kaneez Surka gave us the idea to do improvisation classes at Upright Citizens Brigade New York and we had a blast doing comedy there.
On the biggest challenge he has faced as a comedian:
A: I guess being consistent with quality. Also keeping your existing audience happy and inviting new ones. I just want my reach to grow larger and it is a challenge not to get bogged down by the negativity around you. I just want to keep doing what I do as long as I can and as long as my audience supports me. I am very proud of the audience that follows my work. It took a lot of time to build it, but I feel privileged to have their support.
Q. Your favourite stand-up comedian?
Jerry Seinfeld & Louis Ck.
Q. One book you can read numerous times?
7 habits of effective people.
Q. Kenny the musician or Kenny the comedian – which role is easier?
Kenny the musician. I sing loudly to myself every 5 mins.
Q. A joke you have used to get out of a difficult situation?
Well, I use jokes all the time to get out of difficult situations.
Q. One story your friends and close ones say you repeat a lot?
I never repeat stories. Just like my jokes, I feel life is way too interesting to keep bringing up old stories. It’s about making new ones.
Q. What do you tell yourself right before going on stage? Or do you just take a long breath?
I meditate every morning. Been doing it for the past 10 years. So Before I have a show I try to get as much rest as I can and make sure I am happy and relaxed. I am usually smiling before a show.
Q. Your advice to budding comedians in India?
To know that it is going to be a long journey and it has a lot of rejection on the way. Be humble about the opportunities you get and always help the comics around you.