Heralded as the king of comedy, whose crazy onscreen antics have made us laugh over three decades and more, Johnny Lever is unfazed with the heights of his stardom. He stays his humble self – grounded, devout and still looking for innovative ways to make people laugh!
Most comedians are serious people. Are you like that at home too?
No. We are a family that laughs all the time. My children would make fun of their teachers at home especially if they had peculiar accents. Jamie imitates me and we all laugh at her. I have seen many comedians who are very serious in real life but I chose not to be one of them. If I am happy, I transmit that happiness to people. I cannot let any of my struggle and my bad days show in my humour.
Are you born with a funny bone or you could develop one?
Comedy is the most difficult thing to do. You have to consistently make people laugh. It is a natural talent but then you have to have the performer’s streak in you too. There are so many people who are funny but they cannot perform in front of audiences. Stage fright keeps people away. I had the art, the courage to face and audience and most importantly got the opportunity. I used to know a carpenter who was so funny. He was always full of wit and jokes but he wasn’t a performer. So, the art stayed right there. But I am hugely inspired by what God Almighty puts in people.
Comics are usually serious people?
Yes, they are usually. The great Charlie Chaplin has lived through the most tragic of times. Kishore Kumar jee who is known for his comedy streak had his moods. I remember being told at times to not disturb him when was sitting alone because he was immersed in himself and would go home if provoked. But I am not like that. I enjoy life. I want to be happy and so I can make people happier. My comedy will get a touch of negativity if I get morose. Don’t take life seriously. There are so many people who are unhappy for more genuine reasons than yours. Count your blessings. Laughter changes the environment. People get lighter and happier. But timing is important. It is like food. We need to cook the dish at the right time or it loses flavor.
What is more challenging – comedy onscreen or onstage?
Stand-up comedy is your own show and timing and you face a live audience. Onscreen there is a group of people who are involved including the writer, the director and many crew people. Also, there is a contribution of technology. In Baazigar though I wrote my own character of the forgetful Babulal. There was no writer on set and I improvised the role and it is very memorable. Similarly, for the film Haqeeqat and then Anari Number 1 where I played Daler Mehendiwala. The assistant would come to me and say let’s write!
Who among Bollywood actors has great comic timing?
Asrani saab makes me laugh and how. He is very very funny in real life as well. If you go to a boring music programme with him, God save you! I once ran out of the auditorium to laugh because I couldn’t laugh inside. Even Kader Khan who is equally funny rolls with laughter at his jokes. Among actresses, Juhi Chawla has a great sense of humour, so is Akshay Kumar. SRK is well known for his wit and humour but the prankster is Ajay Devgn.
What are your forthcoming films?
I am shooting Houseful 4 in Jodhpur. Then I have Hera Pheri 3.
Your own favourite funny role?
Baazigar role for sure and Anari Number 1.