Dubai: The sudden death of Indian comedian Manjunath Naidu mid-performance in Dubai has sent shock waves through the stand-up community, with several opening up about the stressful nature of the industry.
Close friend and fellow comedian Salman Z. Qureshi, who was present at the ill-fated performance on July 19 that led up to the cardiac arrest and death of Naidu, stated that it was definitely ‘a rude awakening’ and the ‘time to have a conversation on stress and anxiety’ amid the stand-up community.
“Manju did suffer from post performance stress, as do many stand-ups in the business. But the truth is stand-up comedy can take its toll on stress levels, especially if you don’t keep it in check.
“Standing there on stage, isolated is a fact of the job. Manju’s death has been a rude awakening for the whole community.”
Qureshi stated there is a need of the hour for support groups that can help with the job stress.
As comedians we are energy converters. What we do on stage can have instant gratification and can also catapult us to our lowest lows.
“Ironically, Manju would always be the first one to step and help people. He was a hypnotherapist and a business coach earlier. And even though he wasn’t pursuing this as a full-time career anymore, he was always on hand to help and counsel someone when needed.”
Niitin R Mirani, fellow stand-up comedian and a friend of Naidu, said the death has been devastating and also an eye opener for many.
“As comedians we are energy converters. What we do on stage can have instant gratification and can also catapult us to our lowest lows,” said Mirani. “Unfortunately, we still live in a society where mental health is not openly discussed.
“Naidu’s death has been a trigger and I want to take this time to step up and do what it takes to start this conversation, discuss mental health, stress, anxiety and create a safe space for others as well.”
Gail Clough who has spearheaded 23-year-old Laughter Factory in the UAE, adds that there are no shortcuts to success and those years in a comedian’s life when he or she is first starting out are very crucial.
“It can take you to all sorts of highs and it can drive you mad,” she said. “The negative comments to those initial performances can also feel like personal hatred aimed towards you, akin to, dare I say, a post traumatic stress disorder.”
She continued: “Stand-up comedians are almost like healers. They give it their all on stage to make us laugh but do we realise what it takes out of them? It’s time we learn.”