Over much of the past decade, comedians have benefited from an audience looking for laughs to make sense of an increasingly complex world. As if the advent of anarchy (read:Donald Trump) hasn’t given comedians plenty of ammunition already, people are also welcoming fresh perspectives. “After a while, white voices all sound the same,” as quoted by Daniel Fernandes -an esteemed Mumbai-based comedian, never one to shy away from speaking up on the things that matter.”
The most significant development in the Indian comedy scene has been the approach of the audience towards it. Gone are the days when people sat through hours of script-written TV humor with forced background laughs and weird sexist undertones (not a reference to Kapil Sharma, not at all).
Today, the audience has matured itself into appreciating witty humor and its depth. Comedy has become more inclusive, where everyone gets something or the other to relate to. Take AIB or TVF, for instance. They have come forward with impactful web-series, short videos, even humorous merchandise for people to buy, with the idea that the audience attains a take home message for every minute they spend on their content.
As a generation, we’ve moved far past the slapstick humour that made our parents laugh. In a world, where Donald Trump has access to twitter and nuclear codes, Hera Pheri is understandably not the funniest brand of entertainment we can find. Manipal has recently witnessed an upsurge in the number of people turning to stand up comedy for entertainment, and we have UnTied Laces to thank for that.
Back in 2014, the only opportunity for comedians to showcase their content was the Talent Evening at the beginning of the semester, which had generated quite an audience. According to Abhishek Sarin, the ‘Token Senior Guy’ at UnTied Laces, “People needed a nudge in the right direction and a platform for the same.”
2015 brought us ‘Pretentious Movie Reviews’, Kenny Sebastian, and a larger following for stand up comedy. Consequently, Manipal saw the inception of Baba Nights and bore witness to open mics that became hugely popular – the reason being that there’s a certain draw towards it. Hearing your own thoughts and struggles being narrated to you, but in a humorous manner, who wouldn’t be amused? There’s always a common ground at a comedy show, a sense of community.
In 2016, with the influx of amateur stand up comedians, content fell into a bit of a rut since everybody seemed to stick to the same safe topics. But all that changed with the arrival of massive artists like Karunesh Talwar and Sahil Shah in Manipal.
As of 2017, immensely popular comics, from all across the country, sold out shows in Manipal and have had rooms of people feeding off each other’s energy, and Donald Trump’s stupidity.
Moreover, Manipal’s own student comics have held their own, performing at innumerable events besides opening for accomplished comedians across the nation. Case in point : Shubhang Yadav. This Seinfeld enthusiast started out with a gig in Jaipur as part of a pizza bet, and now has a myriad performances at Baba Nights credited to his name. He has also opened for Karunesh Talwar and Sahil Shah, amongst other notable comedians. Other budding comics, you may well start looking at the upcoming Revels as your major breakthrough.
However, comedy isn’t only restricted to light subjects. For example, pieces on important issues such as ‘The US Presidential Election’,’Marital Rape’, and ‘Student Suicide’ by Daniel Fernandes have been found to be immensely popular with the masses. In a world where people listen to stand up comedians and laugh at news reporters, it would seem fitting that stand up comedy would create a niche for itself.
Through all the pain, war, and cruelty that this planet has to offer, a little laughter never hurt anybody.
While various comedy troupes such as AIB and TVF have encountered both fame and infamy over their controversial content, their exploits seem to have spurred a fresh flush of comedians to try their hand at making India laugh, both offline and on.
However, recent comics have evolved further -expanding the breadth of topics beyond communities and localities to include gender, caste and race in their repertoire.
At this stage, we could really do with more diversified comedy content in India. Save the chauvinistic jokes and poorly crafted innuendos for Don Draper from Mad Men, please.
This culture has become a lot more popular amongst the younger crowd, especially the undergraduate kind. Colleges now take it as a matter of pride to have stand-up comics visit them and give performances. This has catalyzed a revolution of sorts in the local comedy scene, resulting in students exploring their own humor skill sets and putting it to test in front of an audience. A lot of the successful stand-up comics cite their college life as their calling, where they realized that comedy is what they wanted to do.
Manipal is brewing a whole different soup as you read this article, with comics performing almost every other weekend. You could find Abhishek Upmanyu making a hall full of people laugh their brains out, or a first year trying out his luck at a small food joint, some venture or the other is always happening.
Lately, more and more prominent comics have been visiting Manipal, showcasing it as a formidable platform to display all kinds of talent. “The fact that there is an audience here, and they are willing to pay to see you perform is a privilege for us in Manipal.” asserts Amit Chowdhury, one of Manipal’s own successful stand-up comics. “Knowing that the crowd is supportive, and that they appreciate your talent has been a big boost to me.” This clearly reflects the ecosystem that Manipal has grown for people who like to express.
Whatever form of expression it may be, everyone finds their own platform eventually. All in all, it’s a good time to be alive. So when are you buying tickets for a stand-up gig?
To check out the brilliant UnTied Laces, follow the links given below.
For booking tickets to the Daniel Fernandes show (25th October, 2017), and/or (definitely recommend and) the Karunesh Talwar and Sumit Anand show (31st October, 2017) contact:
Mayank – +91 98330 90966
Writers: Ashresh Marupaka, Janice Coutinho, Natasha Kumar, Ananya Roy for MTTN
Photographers: Anmol Rathi, Paritosh Kulkarni