What a Stand-up Comedian won’t tell you! — Dinner with Vivek Mahbubani
Sometimes the most meaningful and inspiring conversations happen over casual meals. The Time Auction Blog is a snippet of our meetings with people who have found passion in their life and career, where we get a glimpse into their mentality behind their ventures.
Born and raised locally, Vivek Mahbubani is no stranger to Hong Kong’s fast-paced and demanding lifestyle. Yet, instead of being swamped by it all, Vivek habitually chooses to transform the everyday mundane into something to laugh about with others — a talent that eventually led him to becoming a successful full-time stand-up comedian.
Since taking the plunge, he’s gained sizeable recognition for his sense of humour: having been crowned the Funniest Person in Hong Kong in both the Chinese and English categories, and featured in numerous shows and commercials. Alongside his comedy group Halls of Laughs, he’s also put on gigs all over Asia Pacific, including Hong Kong, China, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Manila, Bangkok, Sri Lanka, India and Australia.
Yet, contrary to popular belief, being a comedian doesn’t mean goofing around 24/7. In fact, it takes a lot of hard-work and self-discipline to do what he does. Over dinner, Vivek shared with us how he manages to stay on top of his full schedule and always see the interesting side of life.
What is one unusual habit that you love?
I like to plan the next day ahead. For example, at 10 a.m. I will be awake, go to the toilet and shower. Then at 10:30 a.m. I will leave my house and get on the bus, etc. I like my days to be fully scheduled so I know how much time I have to get the stuff done. This has happened for many years and I like it.
It takes a lot of techniques such as self discipline, but you have to find your own style.
I know I can work for two hours straight, but then I need to change. So what I would do is to schedule for two hours home-working, then maybe go to the gym, spending one to two hours there, then come back and work again. Ultimately, I kind of know myself in the sense that how long I can work at one thing.
I learn how to buffer time as well. Over the years, my plan has been where I got an ideal list of things to get done, but I have a little buffer time in between should something happens. You get a phone call, you have to go and pick things up, or you receive an email and have to rush to the bank before it closes. You have to learn how to adjust. If nothing happens, just keep working.
Since you do not have a typical day, so if there is nothing on your calendar, what would you do?
There is no such thing — nothing in my calendar. It is impossible. But I have a list of stuff that I want to do.
When I find that my list of need-to-do is done, I go to the list of want-to-do.
If for somewhat reason, the whole world stops and I have a whole day to myself, I will go to the gym, read the book and go through all the bookmarks that I have always wanted to read; I will watch the videos that I have already saved on YouTube’s watch later list; I will try the new software and check on different things. I have tons of things that I am interested in and want to try at.
What is one thing that people will find surprising about you?
Most people would find surprising is that I am very systematic. When you think of comedians, you might think, “oh you guys are having fun, going for a drink, having a party life and everything.” I do not party. You will pretty much never see me at a club, party in the night or whatever. I am systematic in the sense that I have a to-do list and it is sacred.
If what you told me is not on the list, it is not happening. Once it is on the list, I will get it done in one week or another.
I will plan it all out. I would not say I am disciplined, but systematic. Once it is on the system, it is on the system. I am very systematic in that sense.
Do you plan your life in that way too? For example, your marriage?
Right now I have no plans of getting married, having kids or whatever, because my life is not in a stable pace, seeing my everyday routine. At the same time, I am not at a place where I feel comfortable to “settle down”.
I am not a the point like, everyday I just want to wake up, seeing my wife, eating breakfast and going to work. That is not where I am yet. Of course it is not something that I would avoid, but right now it is neither on my to-do nor want-to-do list.
If you have a gigantic billboard for millions of people to see, what would you put on there?
I would probably put,
“You can laugh too!”
on the billboard. Just to remind people that I do not live a funnier or better life than you. I am stuck in the MTR car, thinking “why is everyone taking the train at the same time?” It is just that I see the funniest side of life and try to make a game out of it.
What is the lesson that takes you the longest to learn?
To accept that I am still a limited person and what is important to me at the end of the day. I only have 24 hours a day, I only have that much energy. I have confidence and faith that I can do whatever I want to do, but at the end of the day you have limitations.
The hardest lesson to learn is that I am a limited person as much as anyone else, but I can learn how to use whatever I have and try to make the best of it.
Big thanks to Zodiac Lighting for sponsoring the event!