Making people laugh can be hard for some. But Australian comics Justin and Kate say judging a stand-up comedy contest can be even tougher

Australian comedians Justin Hamilton and Kate McLennan believe comedy has come a long way in India. “Everyone loves to laugh so stand-up comedy is easy to put on and entertain a crowd,” the duo says.

Here in the city recently to present Australia’s biggest open-mic comedy competition - RAW Comedy for its second edition to find the best, undiscovered Indian comedian, the international comics were excited about finding, developing and showcasing Indian talent to a global audience. The competition, which went through three cities – Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi, was presented by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) and Teamwork Arts and Delhi-based Rohan Desai, who won the contest, will be taken to perform at the annual MICF in March.

“Stand-up comedy as a mainstream career has real good prospects here. Comics will soon be taking up TV and movie jobs,” says the duo pointing out that while in Australia, most comics are lawyers, in India there are plenty of accountants.

Their first time in India, Justin and Kate say their experience has been awesome. “The energy of this country is phenomenal. We have taken auto rickshaw rides to explore places. Despite the crowds, India is a very chilled out place.”

On the Indian comics they’ve judged so far, the duo says that they found a lot of young comedians performing. “This reminds me how I was a long time ago. They are also hungry for information and love to learn from each other,” says Justin. Kate says: “The standards are really high. Most of the comics come back and ask for feedback. That’s a great sign. It shows that they are honing their skills and trying to improve.”

What do they look for when they judge? Kate says: “I look for someone who has their own voice and vision. They should be able to retain who they are and shine through. If they win, they should be also be able to perform in Melbourne in front of thousands of people and have a global perspective.” Justin adds his checkpoints: “It’s probably a good thing that someone like Kate and me are judging instead of someone from the industry. We come from a more empathetic point of view. We look at acts for originality, good presentation and their potential for improvement.”

Their message to comics is simple: “Just keep doing it,” they chorus. “The best thing about stand-up comedy is that it is stand-up comedy. Get on stage, be aware and record your sets. Perform, write, listen back and be consistent,” they share.

Both say their love for comedy began when they were young. Kate says as a Melbourne-based child, she used to do impersonations of her family members, tell stories and make people laugh. “As a teenager, I did drama and comedy after university and did my first solo show in 2006. That kicked off my career in stand-up comedy.”

Justin says he always wanted to be writer and his mother encouraged him a lot. The inspiration for the 41-year-old was the Doug Anthony All Stars comedy trio whom he met when he was 20. “They came to my city, Adelade and I met them and shared my stories. They said these are really funny and told me to do stand-up. They told me you could do three years of writing and no one may read the book. But with comedy, you have an idea, you write it down, present it and you’ll know if it works or not. They said it’s also a good way to earn a living, travel the world and meet lots of people. Back then, I thought these guys were mental. But 20 years later, here I am in India. So it worked.”

While Kate will launch her new comedy show at the Melbourne fest and release a web series which may also hopefully become a TV show soon, Justin has being working on a novel over the last three years and is keen on doing more theatrical stand-up comedy.