Photo credit: Steve Best, courtesy Papa CJ.
Note to readers: Morning Stars is a series of interviews with achievers across fields about their morning routine and how they get ready for the day ahead. Mornings bring optimism and a fresh start. And how we spend them sets the tone for the day.
It takes less time for Papa CJ to respond to a full interview questionnaire than most people need to log on to the Cowin app these days. Forty-four minutes after receiving our email, the pioneering stand-up comedian has sent in elaborate and amusing answers. He is also 44 years old. We are not making any of this up.
Effective use of time has helped CJ become an internationally known comic, and a writer and executive coach. “I hate having outstanding tasks,” he says.
CJ has performed with the likes of Russell Peters and Aasif Mandvi, and comes across as the genial sort. Just don’t bother him when he is having his morning joe.
“Come near me before I’m done with my coffee and you’d better be wearing a helmet,” he says.
A conversation with CJ about how he starts his day.
Are you a morning person? What time do you usually get up?
One of the greatest joys of my profession is that I never have to set an alarm. I wake up when my eyes open. The only time I’m a morning person is when my night carries on into the wee hours of the morning. Otherwise, come near me before I’m done with my coffee and you’d better be wearing a helmet.
The rare occasion when I’m intentionally up early is when I have to catch a morning round of golf. However, when I do have an early start, I’m super productive and get tons of work done by 11am. But then I don’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the day, so end up taking a nap in the afternoon. So it’s all the same in the end.
How many hours of sleep do you need?
As someone who is at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, the word ‘need’ is meaningless to me. Ask me how many hours I want!
What would mornings be like during student days? Can you share a funny anecdote?
I went to a boarding school where you’d have to wake up at 6am every day and your PT started at 6.30am. The only exception was if you played sport for a school team, then you could be at sports practice instead of PT if a tournament or inter-school match was coming up.
In my final year, as head boy, I told the PT in-charge that I had gone for sport and the sports teacher that I was at PT. I got a student to lock my room from outside and the deputy head boy and I slept in till 7.30am. Sadly this scam lasted only three days. The PT in-charge caught a student locking us in my room, and for the next week we had to be up at 5am as punishment.
Do you reach for your phone for news/ messages right away or do you stay offline for a while?
I’ve now switched to an old-fashioned bedside clock so I don’t need to reach for my phone first thing. I do play a game, however, every morning, as soon as my eyes open. I try and guess what the time is before I look at the clock. I generally guess basis the amount of light seeping into the room, the sound of the birds and how rested I feel. Much to my own surprise, I am never more than 15 minutes off the mark.
What fitness activity do you do in the morning?
Bicep curls. Multiple repetitions. With my right hand. As I lift up my coffee mug to take sips.
I believe in gym language they call it a 'super set', because the weight keeps getting lighter and I go on and on until I can’t any more. In the gym they say they stop when their tank is empty but why they would call a coffee mug a tank I don’t know. Strange people.
What is your regular news source in the morning?
What do you like to see on the breakfast table?
What are one or two of your favourite destinations other than your hometown. What do you like about mornings in those places?
I love going to any place where I can wake up to nature. Greenery and a view are what do it for me in the morning, accompanied by a hot cup of tea or coffee. And if I can’t be somewhere with an expanse of untouched nature in front of me, then my second favourite option would be the view of a golf course.
Any song or tune that you like to listen to in the morning, or which captures the morning mood for you?
I prefer peace and quiet in the morning. The chirping of the birds is the only music I need.Which famous stranger would you like to have breakfast with and why?
Monica Bellucci. Why? Because she stayed over from the night before.