Please tell us about yourself
Shreyas Manohar ’18 was honored with a 2017 King’s Crown Leadership Award for “Columbia Spirit.” His contribution to the University community? Tickling its funny bone.
Since Fall 2015, Manohar has hosted a series of stand-up comedy shows he calls Sso-lol (a play on the acronym for Student Services Online) that features a lineup of comedians from Columbia and around New York City and draws from campus life as source material. Most of the approximately 20 shows he’s hosted to date — he tries to organize two or three a month — have taken place at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse. A few have been held at the Austin E. Quigley Theatre in Lerner Hall, including one during the Spring 2017 semester.
What do you do?
Manohar — who previously produced and appeared in CU NOW, a YouTube series that satirized Columbia life — believes stand-up comedy goes “hand in hand” with the College’s tradition of “dissent, never bowing down to authority and questioning everything.” Yet he also sees his art as a way to combat stress. “People at Columbia need to laugh,” says Manohar, who was a member of the 122nd Varsity Show cast and one of two social chairs for V123. “There are many stressful things happening. Everyone is thinking about the world. I think everyone could use a laugh.”
Manohar is also part of what he describes as an emerging comedy scene in India. He has spent the last three summers in Mumbai as a writing intern with All India Bakchod, a sketch group with almost 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube. AIB uses subversive humor and satire to address controversial topics — an increasingly risky thing to do in India in light of crackdowns on freedom of expression. This past summer, on nights when he wasn’t testing new jokes at an open mic, Manohar opened for comedians in and around Mumbai.
“Because the scene is still so new, I feel that what I do matters,” says Manohar about performing in India. “Every open mic changes the scene in some small way. Every new joke you do takes the scene forward.”
What did you study?
Shreyas is from Nagpur, India and is pursuing his Bachelor’s in Creative writing, English from Columbia University.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?
Manohar’s love of comedy grew out of his experience as a cricket commentator in India, a hobby he picked up in eighth grade that turned into paid gigs. (He says he commented on about 500 matches on television and radio in a span of four years.) In high school, he began doing stand-up comedy at the Canvas Laugh Club in Mumbai. Since he’s been at the College, Manohar has performed at New York City venues such as the Gotham Comedy Club, the Broadway Comedy Club and the New York Comedy Club, as well as The Creek & The Cave in Queens.
Your future plans?
Manohar plans to stay in New York City after graduation and envisions himself writing for magazines or television. He wouldn’t mind becoming the next Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert in the process. “My dream is to have a news comedy show of my own,” he says.