Alumni Spotlight: Papa CJ, Oxford Saïd MBA ’00

Papa CJ comedian

Papa CJ, whom Forbes called “the global face of Indian stand-up” is an unusual case study for consultants and comedians alike.

According to a recent interview with The Hindu, the Kolkata-born, Delhi-based Papa CJ was a “middle-class tea planter’s son” who took out a “£30,000 loan to put himself through an MBA at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.” After Oxford, he worked as a management consultant at IBM in London until a fateful 2004 trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which inspired him to ditch the corporate sector and go full-throttle into comedy.

Papa CJ recalls in a 2015 Meld Magazine interview, “I hated the consulting job. Absolutely hated it. So I figured I’ve got time off, let me give it a go. At the end of [that year] I had no money, no friends, no relationships and no life, but…every single comedy promoter in the country knew my name.”

In a New Indian Express interview, Papa CJ talks about the internal conflict he experienced upon abandoning a lucrative management career:

“Our Indian way of thinking is always, ‘Beta settle ho jao.’ Everyone wants their child to get ‘settled.’ You go to school, you go to college, you get married, you have two kids and you have a hundred responsibilities, then beta you are settled. They never say, ‘Follow your heart or what is it that you love doing?’ I believe if you love what you do, you will get good at it. If you get good at it, the money will come.”

For all the hubbub Papa CJ generated on the U.K. comedy circuit, he struggled to make ends meet on an emerging yuckster’s salary. After doing 250 shows in his first 10 months, he recalls earning “just £20 as a tip.” After moving back to India in 2008, Papa CJ’s career really began gaining traction when he began integrating comedy into consulting and vice versa.

Papa CJ elaborates in an interview with The Hindu:

“If you are going to leave the rat race to get into the creative profession, and get into a rat race in the creative profession, then you might as well be in the corporate world making safe and easy money. I do what I do because I love doing it.”

According to Papa CJ’s bio, he frequently works with companies and educational institutions as a motivational speaker and executive coach. He has coached executives from more than 50 blue-chip companies all over the world, including Nike, Google & UBS in Europe, Deutsche Bank, Accenture and E&Y in the United States, Universal Music and BBC in the United Kingdom and Unilever and HSBC in Asia.

In addition to his work with corporate clients, Papa CJ has performed well-received shows at London’s Soho Theatre, New York’s Caroline’s on Broadway, and, according to a 2015 Indian Express Interview, “stadiums, on a plane, in a bus, on a boat, on a train, universities, hospitals, royal palaces and even a police station.”

He was also a top-ten finalist on the 2008 edition of Last Comic Standing and the first Indian comedian invited to perform at Canada’s 2009 Just for Laughs festival and the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival in Australia.

In a 2016 interview with Beat the GMAT, Papa CJ discusses the impact of his Oxford education on his brand of comedy: “Every bit of education and experience helps shape the person you are and the choices you make. My Oxford MBA…helped me make better choices that in turn furthered my career.”

You can learn more about Papa CJ and find upcoming performance dates at his official site.

For more Papa CJ videos check out his YouTube channel.

Papa CJ Contact Info.


About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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