The last few years have been a roller coaster journey for Daniel Fernandes. The Goan comic who has settled in Mumbai started his career in 2011, and since then has made a name for himself on the local and international stage. With performances in over 10 countries, including major festivals like the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, TV appearances on Comedy Central Asia and ABC TV Australia, and even a stint at the prestigious Soho Theatre London, Daniel Fernandes is a force to be reckoned with in India’s comedy circuit. His latest special, Shadows, has already been performed across India, including Goa, and in 5 countries internationally – and this Sunday, June 23, he’s bringing the show home to Goa one last time.
Shadows, Fernandes’ debut special is not your average stand-up comedy performance. The 90-minute special is a deeply personal chapter taken right out his life and brought to the stage in a humorous, yet completely relatable performance. In it, Fernandes shares his journey of the last eight years of his life, exploring mental health, human relationships and love, in a way that all of us can connect with. If you missed Shadows the first time around or would like to see it again, this tour will be your last opportunity before the show is officially retired. We caught up with Daniel Fernandes to discuss his debut, his journey with the show, and his plans for the future.
Why call the show Shadows? Is that a reference to you? Or people with depression and anxiety in general?
In this show, I confront a few uncomfortable truths about mental health, love and our idea of success in a way that might be mildly provoking. It’s the kind of stuff that we may avoid thinking about or the things that blindsight us, yet these are areas of our lives that we can and should laugh about. A lot of these thoughts don’t necessarily see the light of day, hence the name Shadows.
Did you at any point while writing Shadows feel that this may not go down well with everybody?
That’s the whole idea when you try to introduce artistry to stand-up. You don’t want everyone to get on board. People often confuse having a sense of humour with the ability to laugh. Stand-up comedy has so many sub-genres, it is humanly impossible to find every comedian on this planet funny, so when I wrote this show I knew it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as I believe is the case with any comedy special that is written and performed. The trick is to not get everyone to laugh at your jokes. I believe it’s about finding your own funny, and then hopefully have enough people go, “Yeah! I get that” and then they laugh along with you.
What has been the general reaction after your gigs?
Shadows has been on tour for close to a year and a half now in India and internationally and the response has been endearing and humbling. I’ve had a lot of people write in after shows to tell me how they identified with what I was saying. I’ve read every single fan mail I’ve received and what I like most is how each person has connected to a different part of the show. Some fans have even pointed out stuff that I didn’t think they’d connect with. Some messages have been really emotional and those are the ones that have made me smile. Look, we live in a very crazy time, dealing with things we weren’t prepared for. I’m not trying to change the world. I’m an entertainer, and I’m just happy to stand in front of a room full of strangers who’ve given me their time and money and make them laugh. Everything else is a bonus.
In comedy, a lot of the time, bits are based on half-truths and whole lies. Is that the same with Shadows?
Oh they’re all true. Everything I talk about in the show has happened. I have always preferred to have a non-fictional writing style. I think that’s the core of stand-up which is why it’s so important for us to experience life and let terrible things happen to us.
Shadows has so much personal content. Do you ever feel that you’re giving away too much about yourself and your life? Doesn’t it make you feel vulnerable?
It definitely does make you vulnerable when you put yourself out there like that, but I think that’s something a smart audience appreciates because, underneath it all, the performer and the audience are very similar. In all fairness, this is just a small part of my life. There’s a lot of stuff I keep private so that kind of balances it all out. I think every artist needs that space that’s hidden away from the rest of the world. Mine is located someplace that has no network, decent WiFi and a view to die for.
It seems like you’ve been on a quest of late to change the face of comedy in India. First with Shadows and then with Talk To Me (improvised stand-up), and then you decided to do Iron Man (India’s longest live stand-up performance at 6 hours). What’s next?
I think every working comedian on the scene is doing something or the other that’s changing the face of comedy in India. Everyone’s on their own path. I personally find live comedy very exciting so I’m always looking to see how I can push myself out of my comfort zone and do something different. After I’ve retired Shadows, I’ll move on to writing and touring a new show and maybe take up other interesting projects that might come up. You’ll hear more about these towards the end of the year.