From CEO to comedian

Font Size


ATUL KHATRI was the CEO of his family-run IT business (Kaytek Computer Services Private Limited) but at the age of 43, boredom and a midlife crisis got to him and he started doing stand-up comedy — initially just to tick it off his bucket list, but he found that he had a real knack for comedy, Then, after 25 years in the company, he chucked it all in favor of making people laugh. Before he knew it, he had gone around the world, performing more than 400 shows.

Now he’s coming to Manila for a one-night show on March 23 at the City Club in Makati City.

“You could also call it midlife crisis. I used to post three to four jokes [on Facebook] every day since 2009. My friends found them very funny and original and some of them suggested I try my hand at stand-up comedy. That was also the time that the stand-up comedy scene in India was just starting. It was a New Year resolution of 2012. So I registered for the first open mic of 2012,” Mr. Khatri was quoted as saying in a press release.

He recalled that in preparation to do his first performance, he wrote a set and didn’t tell anyone what he was about to do except his wife and he took her along for insurance just in case his jokes fell flat.

Two years later, Mr. Khatri performed at the Hong Kong International Comedy Festival, where he was the only Indian comedian. He went on to win the grand prize in the 2016 CEO’s Got Talent television show by Freemantle Media (the company behind everything from The Price is Right and Family Feud to American Idol, The X Factor, and America’s Got Talent).


He was also featured in Netflix’s show Comedians of the World where he talked about being married for 25 years, his thoughts on the Koh-i-Noor Diamond being kept in London instead of India, and why immigration officers don’t smile.

In his episode in the Netflix series, he recounted that whenever he is set to visit London, people back home always ask him to steal the Koh-i-Noor diamond — one of the largest cut diamonds in the world at 105.6 carats and part of the British Crown jewels — and that it’s his duty as an Indian to bring it home.

“No, I won’t get it. It’s safe there. We know where it is. Go to the Tower of London, pay £22, take a photo and come back. If the same Koh-i-noor was in India, we wouldn’t know where it would be. Our politicians will cut it and distribute it among themselves,” he says in his comedy spiel.

Hosting the show in Manila will be Singaporean comedian Deepak Chandran, while the opening act will be Hong Kong’s Ben Quinlan who himself got started in stand-up comedy after being broke and desperate enough to make three people laugh for free beer.

A regular of the TakeOut Comedy Club in Hong Kong, Mr. Quinlan might have a full-time job in the financial service industry today, but “for free beer he continuously inflicts upon his audiences his experience as a half-Chinese and half-Australian and observations about life in Hong Kong,” according to his profile in the TakeOut Comedy Club website.

Mr. Quinlan gave his first Tedx Talk in 2018 where he talked about his corporate life and comedy life. He also won the 11th International Hong Kong Comedy Competition in 2017.

(Tedx Talks are independently organized events that focus on local voices for local communities unlike Ted Talks which are focused on a more global approach.)

“We have been bringing in great comics for many years and we are gaining a bigger audience as we work on growing the market for people who appreciate intelligent stand-up comics,” said Saira Budhrani, President of Happy Happenings by Prime I Events, who organized the show, in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld. “These artists have so [many] laughs to share with their real life stories and poking [at] the fun side of the very serious and stressful lives we have.

“2019 is expected to be a busy year for us in the international comedy scene with [all the] exciting concept shows and amazing talents we are lining up,” she added.

Atul Kahtri in Manila will be held on March 23, 8:30 p.m., at the City Club, Makati. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show will offer a full bar and there will be several Indian and non-Indian concessionaires.

Tickets are priced at P2,000 (for VIP) and standard tickets are P1,500. For tickets and other inquiries contact 0920-971-7055 or 0917-570-3057. — ZBC