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Rising Star: Deep Chhabria, Creative Partner, BBH India

Chhabria shares how he juggles advertising and stand-up comedy. He also talks about his blog on which he has a comic series that runs in five episodes

A true blue Aquarian, Deep Chhabria, Creative Partner, BBH India, is a sucker for stand-up comedy. The 25-year-old shares how his life revolves mostly around advertising and stand-up.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, Chhabria has been quite a Bandra boy. “However, I grew up in Khar and told everyone Bandra. It sounds cooler you know,” he chuckled.

He did his schooling in Lilavatibai Podar and moved on to HR College for his junior college (Sindhi quota). Then he pursued his Bachelor’s in Mass Media at KC College.

In June 2014, he went on to join Grey Worldwide, Mumbai and worked there for 18 months (till December 2015). While he was there, he worked on accounts such as Gillette, Indian Army, Nutella, Ferrero, Tic Tac, Indian Oil, Big Magic (Reliance Entertainment), Fiat Punto and Pantene.

Following this, he joined Miami Ad School in January 2016, where he did one year in Mumbai and the second one in New York. As part of his creative apprenticeships, he has worked with agencies such as Saatchi, New York; Ogilvy, New York and R/GA, New York. During his time at these agencies, he worked on brands and campaigns such as Pampers, Walmart, National Down Syndrome Society, Philips, Samsung and Love Has No Labels.

In February 2018, he joined That Agency, New York as a Creative Consultant and worked there till March 2018.

What made him take up New York? “New York is home to the biggest comedy circuit and it’s the birthplace of modern advertising. It has Madison Avenue with the best creatives in the world and the Madison Square Garden, that's home to the best comedians in the world. Hence, in order to explore two, New York was the obvious choice. It's also where culture is made every day and everything that's alternate thrives,” replied Chhabria.

While on his stay in New York, Chhabria chronicled his experiences in stand-up comedy on a blog - Figuring the Scene - Season 1 | New York. This blog is a series that has five episodes of Chhabria’s first-hand experiences in stand-up comedy.

He shared, “The idea of the blog came on a lonely winter night in Brooklyn. I needed an outlet and thought I’d do this for myself more than anyone else. The series wasn’t really in the plan. Eight months in I realised, I’ll be heading back and not using this opportunity to document my body of work, would be a waste of an experience.”

“The goal was to just be more honest. I wanted to let comics know that there is no hurry. Comedy isn’t a race. Being good is more important than being famous. And we all don’t really need to upload a YouTube video to validate our existence. The worst thing can happen in comedy is that you grow too big without a solid foundation. So, yeah just wanted to spew out some mad men talk,” he added.

After all these, it was time for him to return to Mumbai. And in April 2018, he joined BBH, Mumbai as Creative Partner. The brands that he has been working on include Red Bull, BookMyShow, Godrej Properties, Star Sports and Birla Gold.

Some of the campaigns and initiatives that he has been part of this year include his contribution in winning four multi-agency pitches in the last nine months. He has been instrumental in launching the Red Bull BC One global campaign, which is to be released this year, and BookMyShow’s animated films and brand campaigns.

He has done the brand reinvention and brand associations films for Birla Gold; done brand activations for Behrouz Biryani; executed 360-degree campaigns for Godrej Air and Godrej Rejuve, respectively.

He also initiated the agency’s first ever film club called Sheep Talkies. And he has also initiated an educational newsletter for all BBH clients named ‘They Actually Made This’.

Since July 2018, Chhabria is also a tutor at Miami Ad School (Mumbai) and is the youngest Ad School Professor there.

He has 28 advertising awards to his credit. He has been featured 35 times in the international press in six countries. In the field of stand-up comedy, he has performed in more than 600 shows in India and the US. He is also the winner of the Best New Comer at NY Comedy Summer Fest on Broadway, and has been featured on Comedy Central.

Why did he come back from New York? “I was expecting to land a job in New York, but the current political climate wasn't too favourable for landing an O1 visa. So, I thought it would be better to head back, work in India and explore the advertising-comedy scene here and spend some time in honing my craft here,” he mentioned.

How did he land up in advertising? Chhabria specified, “No one grows up thinking they want to do advertising for a living. But, I did. When I was roughly 14, I knew I wanted to make ads. I was very fascinated by how you could tell stories in such a short time, make people smile, sell a product and still be remembered. So, I worked towards it from early on. I interned at a design house, then at in.com for MTV, took up BMM and specialised in advertising and moved on to Miami Ad School.”

How did he decide to do comedy? “I always loved watching stand-up. I was very intrigued by the art. When the Comedy Store opened up in Mumbai in 2011, I was there every week catching a show. Then Ashish Shakya from AIB happened to join my college as a visiting faculty. He asked the class if anyone was interested in doing stand-up and I raised my hand. He mentored me through my first set, and I went on stage at an open mic in Bandra. From there, I never wanted to leave stage. It became my safe space,” he shared.

What does he like better, comedy or advertising? And why? “Weirdly I love both equally. When I’ve had a bad day at the agency, I look forward to stage to just vent everything out or turn my day around. And when I’m having a bad week on stage, I love working at the agency,” he said.

He said, “I’m glad that I’ve found a job that let me use different mediums to express and get better at insights, thoughts and execution. And I’ve found an art that helps me be more of myself and have fun with people on stage. Both help me get better at each other in many ways. Advertising and stand-up are both expressions of the truth and how well it can be told.”

How is the Indian experience different from New York for him? Which country does he like better and why? “It’s a lot to explain in a few words. But, the New York comedy scene is far more evolved and enriching. It’s concentrated more on getting good and exploring your true comedic voice. The Indian scene is more about getting big, really quick. It’s definitely growing and is quite fun. It has its own privileges and opportunities because it’s a nascent scene,” he said.

He goes on, “I love the grind the New York scene has. It keeps you on your feet, which is very humbling. It’s less political and has its priorities right. So, personally I’d prefer that. However, professionally the Indian scene has more prospects and is economically way more lucrative.”

What does he do in his free time, apart from comedy? “I hate being idle, so I keep doing something or the other all the time. I play basketball, do kickboxing, yoga, read and go star gazing. I love poetry, so I read a lot of that. I stroll into museums and art galleries. I like using my spare time to time out, breathe and grow as much as I can,” Chhabria concludes.

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