Humour-mongers stand up for a cause

Humour-mongers stand up for a cause

Tongue-in-cheek, funny and insanely interactive. Stand-up comedy could be a whacky mix of all these and much else. 

In their perennial hunt for temporary relief from the drudgery of daily work and commute, Bangaloreans couldn’t have asked for a more instant medicine. No surprises then that the recent Russel Peters show in the City had a sell-out crowd that required a second act next day to satiate the unrelenting demand. 

This also explains why the City’s first stand-up venue, Urban Solace, continues to drive that undiluted passion with its Wednesday Open Mic session for the third year running. Fuelled by laughter erupting from the motley crowd, the wannabe artistes queue up by the dozen.

 Hooked, they return week after week. To entertain, fine-tune their skills or simply learn from fellow artistes. The word has spread so far that performers make weekly trips even from Chennai, Perry Menzies, the brain behind Urban Solace, informed Deccan Herald. 

But when this cuisine culture space kicked off its Stand-Up space in 2011, Menzies and anchor Sanjay Manaktala had a tough time finding the crowds. Bangalore had never seen something like that. “It was difficult. We had only Sanjay and Sandeep Rao doing the comedy acts,” Menzies reca­lled. “However, once we started inviting performers thro­ugh the Open Mic concept, people started trickling in.” 

The crowds only got bigger since then. Over the years, the amateurs found the venue the perfect learning ground and even a springboard to fame. Sanjay cited the case of Praveen Kumar, a seasoned artiste, who carved out a niche in the City perfecting the art at this very stage. “Praveen’s audience grew from five to 500 to 5,000. He even did an opening act for a national comic icon.” 

Unleashing his jokes, polishing them in sync with audience responses, artiste Kannan Gill had let the stand-up art get into his system, completely overhaul his career. He quit his IT job and turned a professional comic, full-time! “It has been an amazing experience for me. Doing 70-80 shows over the last two years, I have learnt that this open mic concept helps you develop your material, make you mature,” said Gill. The relatively small crowd in an intimate space actually helped him connect better with the audience. But making them laugh could be tough, as both he and Sanjay admitted. “If you can trigger laughter in a small room, you stand a better chance with a larger group. Laughter is often contagious. It is like watching a film in a theatre, where someone laughs and everyone joins in. You don’t do that in the privacy of your home,” Sanjay explained. 

Urban Solace’s pioneering foray into the stand-up space did not go wasted. Its motto of providing a platform for creative self-expression through art, music, poetry and humour proved addictive. Similar outfits sprang up in different parts of the City, preparing the ground for a huge interest in stand-up. The rambling rush at the Koramangala indoor stadium last month to catch a glimpse of Russel Peters was proof enough! 

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