Saturday, October 23, 2010

Comedy is Serious Business

I have always wanted to witness a Stand Up comedy for a very long time. The closest I have ever got to was watching it on TV – Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Peters, George Carlin and rest of the gang. Stand-up comedy is a style of comedy where a comedian performs in front of a live audience, usually speaking directly to them. Their performances are sometimes filmed for later release via DVD,Internet,movies, and telivision. The performer is commonly known as a stand-up comic, stand-up comedian or simply a stand-up. This form of entertainment in English is new to India.

The Comedy Store (in London since 1979 and Manchester) has been operating at Mumbai's leading lifestyle destination ‘The Palladium’, Lower Parel, as India's first and only state of the art venue for stand up comedy. It opened in June this year, The Comedy Store, Mumbai presents a fabulous opportunity for the people of Mumbai to enjoy a serious night out…..a fresh breath of entertainment.

Our daughter Akhila took us there one evening while we were at Mumbai for the Dusshera vacations. To be frank I went with an open mind, not expecting anything fantastic. Having visited the place earlier my daughter told us that we should be on time, avoid the front row and switch of the cell phone. The comics literally get after these types and make them the butt of their jokes. There were three stand ups – big time British and Australian comedians - Wayne Deakin, Rainer Hersch and Junior Simpson and they appeared one at a time. The show is like a roller coaster ride – unending narration of jokes, laughter, screams and shrieking for two hours with a fifteen minute break to refill glasses and grab a bite. I suppose having a drink in your hand inside the auditorium adds to the relaxed atmosphere and creates the right mood for laughter.

The theatre accommodates about three hundred people. It has excellent acoustics, comfortable chairs and a good view. The jokes are about Indian culture, traditions, weakness, failures, population, strength and so on. There are similar jokes on Brits, Blacks, Aussies, French and Americans. Lot of jokes relate to sex. Some of the jokes are from current events like CWG. The comic shows a leading national news paper with headlines screaming “WE ARE SECOND TO NONE” and says “I thought Indians were good at counting” how can you be second to none when Australia stood first. The jokes are frivolous and lighthearted bordering on the ridiculous. The best part is that you do not remember any of the jokes a day later. They pick on two or three from the audience and the jokes are on them. There was this married chap who arrived late with his sisters after leaving behind his wife at home – a number of jokes were on him. Similarly a person in the front row sitting with a girl from the office, while his wife sat in the row behind, a young student and so on.

My wife says “So, well fed and obedient, we entered the auditorium- slinked in noiselessly and unobtrusively into seats in the fifth row. Three comedians took the stage that night and as each one picked on some of the chaps in front, the Commonwealth games, the lack of space in Mumbai and so on, we enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, secure in the knowledge that we would not be picked on that night….. Standup Comedy is still new to India. We are just learning to laugh at ourselves…. There were times when you could feel the entire audience tightening up in defence as the jokes was directed at some of our revered institutions like cricket but for the most part it was hilarious. Lewd, vulgar and at times bordering on gross, but very, very funny…. The thing is with standup comedians, it’s not so much what they say as how they say it and their superb sense of comic timing (if they’re good). If they are not, no one can bomb as badly as a comic. All in all, a lovely way to spend an evening in Mumbai”.

To keep the audience continuously laughing for two hours in no ordinary task – as the adage goes – ‘Comedy is Serious Business’ .The comedians must be putting in lot of effort and hard work every day to remain current and make their jokes click.

It is certainly a different kind of stage entertainment, something new and utterly hilarious. We enjoyed it thoroughly – it was value for money. When you are in Mumbai next I strongly recommend you to watch the show.

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