More than just a laughing matter

Stand-up acts

More than just a laughing matter

The stand-up comedy culture, that was popularised worldwide by the likes of Lenny Bruce, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin or even Russell Peters, may have come to India late.

But in the recent past, Bangalore has seen many young comedians trying to master the art at open-mic sessions and competitions. Metrolife speaks to some new comedians on the block who are worth looking out for.

The first thing to understand is why youngsters try it in the first place. For 23-year-old Kanan Gill, it seemed like a good extension of his writing (which has a humorous bent) with “the freedom to directly convey your ideas rather than relying on a reader’s interpretation” as he puts it.

Having recently won ‘Punchline’, a stand-up comedy competition, he is even more thrilled about it than before. “There are highs, when people are in splits over something you just said and confusing lows, where you thought something was
hilarious but no one else does. But I’m always cracking myself up over my own jokes,” he confesses.

It’s a different approach for others. “I see comedy as a tool to keep my mind active. Once one enters this field, it’s necessary to keep looking out for things which you can twist and make it funny. This really acts as a stress buster for me,” shares Siddharth Banerjee, who is also gaining popularity with each show.

Another important aspect is the content itself. “My main focus is observational humour — family, friends, driving, men, women, dogs, cats, tight pants, etc. I try to maintain a clean act as much as possible, with no swear words or sex jokes as my focus is to make sure my act can be enjoyed by any age group,” notes Kenneth Sebastian, who has been doing the rounds of the regular stand-up venues like Urban Solace, BFlat, Loveshack and Bacchus. On how lucrative the field is, he says, “There is a lot of money if you’re good, willing to toil it out and do a lot of embarrassing shows. But it’s not consistent in terms of frequency.”

Like Kenneth, most comedians go to observational humour for new material. “A lot of my material is just taking a common gripe that people may or may not have noticed and showing them how absurd it is or can be. I also touch upon cultural differences and the classic difference between the sexes,” informs Kanan.

Siddharth explores the same themes in his jokes. But having recently tied the knot, he is best known for his self-depreciation jokes on marriage. “My misadventures with married life give me a constant flow of material. Plus, in India, political news
is always a good source of comedy,” he grins.

According to Sundeep Rao, one of the pioneers of stand-up comedy in the City, it’s a great time to get into stand-up comedy in India. He says, “The market is just picking up and is a large market to tap. But people shouldn’t get into it just for the money. If they do, they’re going to focus more on that than being funny and original.”

While being optimistic about the scene’s growth, he dreams of a day when comedians will stop borrowing jokes and move beyond stereotypes and mainstream references. “When stand-up comedy actually kicks off, you will see niches developing and a lot of original styles and material coming out. I don’t know what style of humour I’ll be doing five years down the line but I’ll definitely be doing stand-up comedy,” he wraps up.

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