He started off as a comedian in real life while still at school. Today, he is counted among one of India's best funnymen. Riya V Anandwala chats up comedy master Johnny Lever.
Were you offered to play judge for any other reality show?
Yes, there have been offers. I was called for The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, but I turned it down because I wasn't sure of its quality.
Johny Lever was a mill worker in Hindustan Lever and hence the suffix attached to his first name.
Johny Lever was a stage performer doing mimicries and imitations until he was motivated by his well-wishers to try his luck in films.
Johny Lever got his first break in the movie Jalwa.
Why did you accept Comedy Circus? .
I thought it would be fun judging the contestants along with Satish Shah and Archana Puran Singh.
Contestants say that you have a serious approach unlike your on-screen image.
Oh, do they expect me to laugh without a reason? I've seen others doing it and it seems senseless. I am not getting paid extra for it!
With a sudden influx of comedy shows, do you think the quality is suffering?
Comedy is an art which is extremely difficult to deliver. Some are really talented while others are a part of the herd. This is a trend and will soon fade off.
Raju Shrivastav has recently been in the limelight. Do you see that as a threat?
Raju is my junior and the day he does his show, I will be the happiest man. As for insecurity, I have none because I know nobody has offered variety in comedy like I have.
You're not seen much on screen nor at awards functions these days. Why is that?
It was a conscious decision on my part to take up fewer films. And if you're not seen that often on screen, nobody calls you to perform at an awards ceremony.
Johnny Ala Re wasn't a success.. why?
It was technically weak. The scriptwriters were not in place and my co-actors were strictly okay.
Do you think it made you unpopular?
I don't know. Maybe for some time. But then a mere show can't make or break my image.
Are you planning to sign on more shows on television?
Yeah, I'm considering offers. Let's see if something good comes my way.
Are your children planning to follow your footsteps?
Yes, my son Jesse is doing a lot of comic tricks in college these days. I can train him but I'm sure he'll develop his own style.