The stand-up comedy genre is a little hard to explain to people who have not seen it. It’s akin to our own Chakyarkoothu, where the artiste comments on everything topical, while linking it to puranic incidents at times. The kind you hear on FM stations now is one version. What Jayaraj Warrier does is another version.
English stand-up comedy is hardly a few years old in India and is limited to the urban audience as of now, unless you go to YouTube. English Theatre’s kin, it came calling to Kochi at JTPac, Kochi, probably for the first time in Kerala, Saturday last. Praveen Kumar, Kunal Rao, Brij Bhakta and Aditi Mittal succeeded in getting the packed hall to let down their hair. Those doing research on different types of uninhibited laughter, would have got enough material to get by. Standing before a crowd, totally new, and simply telling them about incidents and trends that may make people laugh isn’t an easy thing. And if it does not make one laugh, the embarrassment must be swept under the carpet, recovering the next moment to get on with the show.
Linking incidents, the flow of speech unwavering, the tone right and the subject something that interests the audience, is indeed a tall task. It is lot harder than acting or public speaking, because making someone laugh is the single aim of a stand-up comedian. The foursome who came to Kochi certainly got above average marks for their show, ‘Laff lines’, lasting half-an-hour each.
Bangalore-based Praveen Kumar is a veteran, considering he began this job in 2009, in this entertainment sector that’s in its infancy. The BITS Pillani student started it out there, in college and made it his career instead of what he actually went to learn there. And his experience shows. A Tamilian, he made the South the butt of most of his funny stories, maybe for safety’s sake, passing on from one subject to the other without the audience being aware of it and punctuated with peals of laughter.
In this genre, there is a certain artistic license that allows the comedian to go beyond that ‘lakshman rekha’, to talk on subjects that otherwise do not get discussed in public, namely sex and even sexual preferences.
Kunal Rao, a chartered account who opted to chuck a lucrative career for comedy, also preferred to laugh at himself and his ‘own’ experiences. He spoke of A4 size paper dosa and other stories.
Brij Bhaktha, the Gujarati who grew up in the United States, was armed with a lot of crossover stories, of accents, the generation gap, the food, and many other unprintable stuff in a newspaper, culled from living in two cultures, one at home and the other outside. Brij is the one who came on Fox TV, hosting Freaky Traveller, taking viewers to offbeat places and people. The laughs followed him to the end.
Only woman in the group
Aditi Mittal, the lone woman in the group and one of the very few woman stand-up comedy artistes in India, has a way with the audience.
She uses both her narrative and histrionic skills to great advantage, excelling her male counterparts in the adult only stuff, which had the broadest minded women among the audiences cringe for cover. Under 25, the gutsy woman will go far in this profession, not because she dwells on sex-related jokes, but for her easy connect with the audience and the speed with which she jumps from one subject to the other. Aditi also came on CNN-IBN's Phenking News with Cyrus Brocha.
The very urban experiences each artiste narrated were enough to draw mirth, and instant laughter even without the crutches of the explicit jokes or gross gesticulations that are construed to be the pillars of English stand-up comedy. When so many censors huddle over the film and cross swords over a word or sentence before giving a certificate, how come English stand-up comedy gets away with so much, one wonders about the double standard.
English stand-up comedy has opened its account in Kerala and going by its success, we may soon see more of them in the State shortly.