Theatre

How Hyderabadi comedian Saikiran is laughing to the comedy bank

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This comic went viral in 2019 for his taboo-breaking punchlines... he now talks about identity in the industry, and humour in the time of tension

Saikiran’s routines across his own Pure Veg Jokes, Hyderabadass Comedy Club and other standup evenings always see a packed room. The comedian went viral in 2019 with videos of his routines sprawling all over WhatsApp and social media platforms.

It was not always like this; he had humble beginnings, first taking to the stage at an open mic contest, which he won, in January of 2014. “Over the years I have been opening acts for many of the biggest stars of Indian comedy when they visited Hyderabad and have even travelled to Bengaluru and Mumbai to be part of lineup shows,” he says proudly. He then proceeded to launch his first solo show Pure Veg Jokes (PVJ) on March 18, 2018. “The last few of the PVJ sets will be taking place over the next couple of months.”

Break the Internet

Saikiran’s most popular routine was released in the form of a YouTube video, ‘Dark Skin & Getting Married’ on February 11, 2019 — and that is when things really kicked off for him. The routine featured personal conversation he has had with family and friends and his inner-ramblings which always garner a few laughs. What took Saikiran’s popularity to another level is that the same routine has been shared on WhatsApp. “The WhatsApp virality has been unimaginable. I don’t know who downloaded it and started sharing it. I know many people have seen the video but don’t know me or even realise that’s actually standup comedy! But it’s great to see that it went viral in different parts of the country not just locally showing again we all have so many shared experiences. Last I checked, it was doing the rounds in WhatsApp groups in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. As far as identity, I am glad at least many people know my face now. Otherwise you never know who is the artiste behind the most viral memes that we all watch and share everyday.”

Saikiran

Saikiran   | Photo Credit: Joshwa

A Hyderabadi through-and-through, the travelling comedian adds, “One thing you realise as you travel and perform is however much our differences across the length and breadth of the country we have so many shared experiences that unite us. That’s why the same joke that’s written in Hyderabad works in Kottayam and Indore and Delhi.”

That said Saikiran acknowledges the importance of having a digital presence as a standup comedian. “Right now its imperative for a standup comedian to have a digital presence especially with videos on YouTube. People want to be sure they will like the style of comedy before buying tickets for a live experience. So the virality has definitely helped. I did my solo show exactly 15 days prior to the release of my video to a grand total of one person in a furniture shop. Now I get over 100 people to my ticketed events! The only hindrance is having seen the video, many people come expecting more of the same style and content and when I try to explore topics they don’t necessarily relate to or agree with and ultimately wouldn’t respond with the same enthusiasm. But I am glad people are coming to watch me; sometimes repeatedly and it will be interesting to push me and them also into different places with this very unique art form.”

So what is the most common question Saikiran gets from budding comics? “Nowadays they just ask how to go viral,” he laughs.

Tough times

With the ongoing protests and politically sensitive times, is it tough to be a comedian so as not to sound tone-deaf? Do comics have to change up their approaches? “It differs from comic to comic and their audience too. Some comics have audiences who expect them to talk about ongoing issues and will be disappointed if they don’t broach them,” he points out, “Other comics get audiences who come for light entertainment and may not always be keen to have a replay of what’s on the news again. It’s a two-way street, a comic shapes his audience as much as the audience shapes the comic.”

Saikiran adds, that in the early days the comedy audiences were small, adding but also “[A certain market had more exposure] to standup as an art for from watching American television or even having travelled abroad so they were aware of the idiom of standup and understood the concept of comedic license to make fun of very many things. With the explosion of Internet in India and in parallel of standup, a lot of new audiences started watching comedy, but they can’t imagine topics they hold dearly being made fun of, so are quick to take offence. So comics sometimes have to do a tight balancing act.”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 12:46:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/saikiran-hyderabad-comedian-pure-veg-jokes-viral-on-whatsapp/article30451022.ece

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