If, at 30, you found a letter addressed to yourself that you had written at 15, listing the goals you hoped to achieve in the next decade, what would your reaction be? Amusement at your naivete, pride at your success or a terrifying downward spiral into all the hopes and dreams that never saw the light of day?
Kanan Gill experienced all this and more, and stitched his first Netflix special Yours Sincerely, Kanan Gill around this incident. At its heart, the show is about what drives us, says the Bengaluru-based stand-up comic. “I wanted to talk about how it feels looking back on what used to be important to us. I think a lot of us laugh at the dreams we used to have, but are still completely serious about our current dreams. I think that’s very funny,” he says.
The show oscillates between memories from his childhood to the present; from the time he rang up a crush with his newly cracked voice to making uncomfortable visits to the doctor, nostalgia seems to be the running theme throughout. “There are a lot of times we look back on how we were, wistfully. There were always times when things were easier, when things were better,” he says, adding that even the moment that we are all in, facing an uncertain future due to COVID-19, could be “good nostalgia fodder”. “Maybe I will pine for this moment someday, and that makes me appreciate it more,” he says.
Nostalgia has played a part in Kanan’s rise to fame as well. He started out with ‘Pretentious Movie Reviews’, a series on YouTube where he, alongside comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath, hilariously recounted over-the-top movies from the ’90s. Kanan left a career in software engineering to pursue stand-up comedy full time.
This is his second special, after the light-hearted Keep It Real on Amazon Prime Video. This one, however, is a tad more introspective and touches upon issues of mental health and suicide. The latter, he calls a “return gift” to life. “That was a difficult part of the show to write, but the guiding light I used was to joke about only my experience, and say only the things that I would find funny in the darkest times. Of course, under many layers of contrivance, but that is just what I do.” He balances out the heavy stuff with jokes about the Indian disinclination for small talk, the idea of “timepass” and, what is frankly, an unhealthy obsession with ‘PJs’ (colloquial term for poor jokes). Defiant, he says, “I love PJs. It is fascinating how they are more enjoyable the worse they are.”
Yours Sincerely, Kanan Gill is streaming on Netflix.