A serious chat about stand-up comedy in India

Do you

– Make your way to comedy open mics at intimate neighbourhood venues every week or at least every other week?

– Save up for large-scale auditorium shows headlined by an all-star?

– Eagerly wait for and watch Amazon specials?

– Bookmark 10-minute YouTube videos for a well-deserved laugh after a hard day at work?

– Come back to your favourite comedian’s Instagram stories for a micro-dose of happiness during lunch break?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any (or all) of the above, you are part of a growing section of people that count on comedy for respite from mid-week blues and weekend entertainment, in India. Chances are that, while you may not remember exactly when you first discovered just how much you enjoyed laughing non-stop for a whole hour in a dark room with complete strangers, you have since found a preferred style, venue, and comedian. You have become a part of the ecosystem—by helping sell tickets and racking up views—just as much as the content creators and performers you love. An ecosystem that, we’re happy to report, is thriving. But, more importantly, accommodating of fresh ideas, talent, and stories.

Amazon Prime India’s comedy reality show, Comicstaan, returns for a second season this July, with a roster of amateur comedians that will try and find their place in this brave new world. Like season one, it has been conceptualised as an immersive comedy ‘course’ that trains participants in its various styles (like improv, sketch and anecdotal comedy) over eight weeks, but there are a few key changes this year. Comedians Zakir Khan and Neeti Palta join Kanan Gill, Kenny Sebastian, Kaneez Surka and Biswa Kalyan Rath on the judges’ panel, together with season one host, Sumukhi Suresh, from whom Urooj Ashfaq takes over as Abish Mathew’s co-host. The sets are bigger and better, there’s less uncertainty about the format and the jokes are tighter. The biggest change? Everyone’s playing to win.

If season one was an experiment, season two is tried-and-tested. Having successfully launched the careers of stand-up comics like season one-winner Nishant Suri, and contestants Rahul Dua, Prashasti Singh and Saurav Mehta, Comicstaan is now seen as a platform to aspire to, for those who mean (funny) business. But that’s not its greatest appeal; instead, it is the opportunity to draw from the judges’ collective pool of real-world experience in an industry that is still coming into its own.

We spoke to season two mentors, Kenny, Kaneez, Abish and Sumukhi to find out what they wish they’d known when they were just starting out. Including the all-important piece of gyaan—joke karna koi mazzaak nahi.

Swipe through:

Chitra Chukla
Suma Kanakala
Hari Teja
Faria Abdulla
Bhanu Sri

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