Celebrating Jonathan Atherton
A Tribute To a Friend and Comedy Legend
Indians are the most spiritual people I’ve ever met. I was in Connaught Place yesterday and gave the shopkeeper a 100 rupee note for a 50 rupee book. Then I asked him, “Baba, where is my change?” He replied, “Change must come from within.” - Jonathan Atherton
There are so so so many qualities that I admire about Jon that it’s impossible to know where to start writing about any of them.
If I had to pick one man to go and perform a comedy show in absolutely any country in the world, I would pick Jonathan. When I was launching the comedy scene in Delhi in the late 2000s, that’s exactly what I did as well. That being said, if there was one man in the world you’d be shit scared as a promotor to book for a comedy show anywhere in the world, that would be Jon as well! One of his gags, based on personal experience I’m sure, was, “They’ve put me up in a really nice hotel. It’s really luxurious. The towels are so fluffy I was having trouble closing my suitcase.”
Jon had a heart of gold. He was a local in any country he was in, in any corner of the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a police record in every single country he visited as well. By a country mile he was the most interesting man in the world. Anyone who had met Jonathan Atherton even once, will never forget him. There’s a line between genius and bat shit crazy and Jon danced on that line like nobody before. He could be both of them on the same night and in the same minute. But his heart was always in the right place.
If you had to give credit to a single individual for the growth of the comedy scene across Asia, it would be Jonathan Atherton. From starting off a small comedy night, to supporting new talent, organising gigs in theatres with thousands in attendance, and setting up a dedicated comedy club, Jon did them all. He was passionate about comedy and growing the promoting the art form. I have fond memories of Comedy Boot Camp Asia, an event conceptualised by Jon, to support and grow grassroots comedy talent in Asia. This was almost a decade ago and there were about 50 comics from all over Asia who came to attend. A few of us who had been doing it a little longer at that time, shared whatever little knowledge and learnings we had with the community that had gathered there. Jon always supported new talent and was always happy to share advice - and brutally honestly as well. He was a man who called a spade a f***ing spade.
Jon was a comedy purist who didn’t care about large amounts of money or fame. He was never going to be a rat in anybody’s race. He was in it for the love of the game.
I knew Jon in many capacities. I was an act who was booked by him as a promoter, a promoter who booked him as an act, a fellow comedy evangelist who brainstormed with him on how to grow the art form on our continent, and a comedian who shared stages with him in multiple countries. But most importantly, Jon was a friend.
The comedy circuit in Asia and well beyond shall always have a debt of gratitude to the inimitable Jonathan Atherton. Thank you Jon - for the memories, the laughs, the madness, and for showing us how to live a life that is absolutely true to oneself, without giving a flying f*** about what anyone else thinks.
Your legend and legacy shall live on my brother. We shall miss you and see you on stage on the other side.
My deepest condolences to Béatrice and Jon’s family.
Jon doing what he does best - making people laugh.
The video below will only be funny if you've been a comedian on the Singapore/Malaysia circuit or if you were there for the first Comedy Bootcamp organised by Jonathan Atherton and The Comedy Club Asia. This is comics shooting the shit and impersonating each other at 2am after a 'little' bit of alcohol has been consumed!