Nepali YouTuber and comedian Pranesh Gautam became a household name in 2019 when he was arrested for a satirical video review of a movie, ‘Bir Bikram 2’, and detained for nine days.
Amid an outpouring of anger on social media against his arrest, and protests at Maitighar, the High Court cleared Gautam of the defamation charge pressed by director Milan Chams.
Gautam, a film buff since childhood, didn’t mean harm to the director or the movie actors. But the 2019 incident taught him far more about the trade than all the movies he’d watched.
“No comedian is ever out to hurt people,” he says. “Their only intent is to make the audience laugh.” And that was what he wanted to do with the video uploaded on Meme Nepal’s YouTube channel.
“I grew up watching Hollywood movies,” he shares. Genre icons like ‘The Terminator’ and ‘The Matrix’, which he watched in his sixth grade, made Gautam an avid film lover and he quickly sorted through the classics, expanding his knowledge. It saddened him that Nepali films rarely had that level of storytelling.
His review was only meant to highlight the reviewed movie’s absurdity, and plots of most movies that hit the box office. But it soon became more than that.
Yet Gautam has grown out of that incident now. Today, he runs his own YouTube channel ‘Pranesh Gautam ko Channel’ with over 27,000 subscribers. Aside from his regular comedy skits and travel vlogs, Gautam also has a segment called ‘The Worst Covers’ in which he sings cover songs.
He also has a band, Purple August, which he started with his friend Roshan Magar. The two used to do live shows in restaurants up until the first lockdown. The architecture student is also one of the core team members of the design firm Ramro Mato.
But his most adventurous career move so far has been participating in the first season of Comedy Champion TV show—something that was never in the plans.
“You know how it goes, a few of my friends heard the show was happening and talked me into it,” he confesses. The fact is, most great things that have happened to Gautam are the stuff he’d never planned. “I’m very easily influenced,” he laughs.
As a child, he was always into stage performances and music, and his caricatures were funny. He remembers a mimicry of former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala he watched in the early 2000s that left a deep imprint on him.
In the eighth grade, he took part in a school play and remembers the audience appreciating a satirical drama he was a part of. Even though he gravitated more to music in high school, he found his way back to comedy after a friend encouraged him to visit stand-up comedy shows organized by Comedy Tuk Tuk in 2017.
“My first performance on stage was really good,” Gautam says. “But the next five or six months were difficult as doing comedy felt like breaking new grounds.” For the next two years, he continued improving his skills, practicing on and off the stage.
When he was arrested, his perspective on doing comedy professionally kept changing, moving from fear to anger to hope to despair. On being acquitted, however, he decided not to do comedy that hurt others. “The biggest lesson for me was that you cannot get personal with jokes in this profession,” he says.
“I understand the cancel culture to some extent and people should be held accountable for their actions,” Gautam tells ApEx. “But ruining people’s careers over tweets and taking their statements out of context to paint them in a bad light isn’t cancel culture, it’s social media toxicity.”
It is one thing to bring to attention things that call for violence or incite hate, he adds, but completely other when you turn influencers and their lives into punching bags.
Despite these hurdles, Gautam is determined to stay in this field and give his best. He’s currently working on a few comedy skits for his channel and a ‘secret’ project. “I’m an artist,” he says. “So I’m not going to focus on influencing or activism—just on my art.”