Wannabe Russel Peters queue up for marathon 'Open Mike' session

Wannabe Russel Peters queue up for marathon 'Open Mike' session

Standup was what they dared to conquer. Stand Up is what they thought they did. For 11 gruelling hours on Wednesday, the city's wannabe Russel Peters queued up to tickle funny bones at the marathon 'Open Mike' session, billed as the longest this side of the country. The Bengaluru Comedy Festival had just switched its mighty, whacky gears in tandem.

Nervous and nerdy, the amateurs had butterflies dancing out of their stomachs. As the edgy, humour-mongering moderator beckoned them to stage, they tiptoed in anticipation. Would their long-rehearsed scripts survive those nerve-wracking five minutes on stage? Would their lines bomb or the audience's generosity earn them a laugh or two?

Inside that darkened hall at That Comedy Club in Koramangala, the spotlight was right on the comic. Their every expression, every sweat was under scrutiny. Some jokes clicked and some fell disastrously. But when peels of laughter hit the roof, the amateurs were left wondering: Did their lines finally hit jackpot, or were those gathered just laughing at their sweat?

The night before, seasoned pro Karunesh Talwar had warned of the comedy boom's demise if the artistes did not innovate, experiment and stop mimicking those global stars. "A lot of comedians today are a parody of each other," he had quipped, earning a studied silence.

Battle-hardened by a thousand shows, Mumbaikar Talwar could see it coming. "Russel Peter started making fun of different races. The audience lapped it all. Indian comics are just localising it. Poking fun at Gujjus, for instance. It shows their lack of respect for the craft," he explains to DH.

Talwar had watched the audience mature, turn demanding back home. "In Bengaluru, people laugh readily. The standards are higher in Mumbai, where comedy buffs have seen many international stars perform. Their expectations are higher," says he.

But ask him if those standards dictate whether jokes should be below the belt or above, he goes ballistic: "Standup celebrates the freedom of speech. Audiences demanding change in the content of a show, anybody trying to censor, they can just walk out." Yet, there are lines that are dangerous to cross. A fellow comedian had faced death threats for his opinionated jokes, and Talwar wouldn't want to risk that.

Watching those young wannabe standups keen to make it big, Talwar had a few words of advice: "It is important to watch the highest quality of standup, worldwide. Read, search online, and hear podcasts." This veteran seemed genuinely keen that the comedy spark continued to flicker into the Generation Next.

 

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