We are living in the age of information where there is so many career choices left still unfolded.One of these are the rising growth of standup comedians – the number is growing leaps and bound day by day.
The generation of 90’s remember how ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge” introduced a term called ‘Standup Comedy’. Followed by a gap of few years, came another TV show ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’, a show initially had been categorized as the laugh affair of Kapil Sharma although he was collaborated with other of his fellow mates. Parallel to it, somewhere standup comedy became side-lined since the standup acts were only telecasted on Youtube where other comedy shows were being telecasted on Television.
In the last seven odd years, we’ve seen the rise of stand-up comedy in a way no one really anticipated. Every second bar in a hip neighbourhood now hosts open mic nights; and Indian comedians are touring Dubai and Singapore. It’s not a stretch to say that comedians are the new superstars of this generation. They receive the kind of adulation that was reserved for actors and cricketers — fan art, fan pages on social media, and being hounded for selfie requests.
Carving their niche within this space now is a new subset of stand-up comics. The ones that prefer using Hindi as their medium. Performers such as Zakir Khan and Abhishek Upmanyu are comics who grew up in predominantly Hindi-speaking cities such as Indore and Delhi. And what’s driving their decision to use Hindi on stage is the need to stay true to their own experiences
If one were to analyse the state of English stand-up comedy in India, it would appear to have undergone a huge change. From being an oblivious and unexplored field, today it has become a part of mainstream cultural commodity in metropolitan cities. Auditoriums and bars have become more receptive of the idea and host various stand-up groups on weekends. In fact last year India played host to famous international comedian Russell Peters. But this does not negate the fact that India has a shortage of English stand-up comedians.
Earlier this year Only Much Louder (OML) organized India’s first three-day comedy festival, Weirdass Pajama Festival, which brought together 70 comedians from across the country to entertain the audience. Although the organisers and participants were thrilled by the event’s success, it’s hard to ignore the fact that in a country of a billion people, there are only 70 comedians that can make people laugh. However, what’s even worse is that we create unnecessary competition within this small community that has made making people laugh their profession.
It was not until 6-7 months ago that comedy collectives like All India B****** (AIB) and Vir Das’ Weirdass Comedy extended their activities from live shows to YouTube videos. And soon began the comparison. With the viewers having their own personal favourites, they started to compare every joke and production styles, and began pitting one against the other. Often one would find these groups hitting out at each other in the comment section of the videos. As a viewer, I really find this amusing. I believe that all this competitive spirit hampers with the growth of an industry that’s still struggling to strengthen its roots.