Exploring the prospects of Pune’s ourishing stand-up COMEDY SCENE
Stand-up comedy, being an in-thing today, is everywhere, and Pune is no exception. Citadel speaks with some popular stand-up comedians from Pune to know about the city’s comedy scene and its changing dynamics.
going up on stage and holding a mike in hand, singlehandedly making the world laugh, setting the audience roaring with laughter, improvising and tickling every funny bone in the room, are the common traits of a stand-up comedian. Taking humour a notch higher, the profession of ‘Stand-up Comedy’ has evolved over the years. The grins and laughs of stand-up comedy came into the limelight in India with The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, one of the most successful stand-up comedy shows that has been aired on Indian television. As a result, India is not shy of its share of stand-up comedians today, who are not limited to just mimickers but do a range of comedy, both in Hindi and English. The whole fad of stand-up comedy, which has become a serious business now, has been getting overwhelming response from the audiences of all major cities across the country. Closer home, the Pune audience has been very welcoming about the standup comedy nights that are all the rage today. The comic scenario here has
transformed too since the past four to ve years. Sahil Horane, 26, Punebased stand-up comedian, opines, “In the past, only popular comedians used to attract eye-balls , but now the tyro comedians who don’t even have a YouTube presence are enjoying popularity.” Further, he adds, “The people here are more interested in the comedy than how prominent the comedians themselves are, which is a wonderful thing. Although the industry for comedy is in Mumbai, Pune is extremely important for us as it helps us (comedians) to get more mileage. However, it will take some time to become a hub.” With the changing comedy scene in Pune, the venues too have become sought-after, thereby dispensing as platforms for the comedians to perform in comedy nights and open mics that are being organised in the city on a large scale. In reality, there couldn’t be a better place for stand-up comedians to make a bon mot, since that’s exactly what the city is most famed for: its wit and sarcasm. Akash Gaurav Singh, 27, who hails from Pune and primarily does Hindi comedy, tells us that Puneites like jokes that strike with them instantly. “For instance, they laugh their heads off when jokes about their ‘typical Pune stereotypes’ are made, such as the traffic policemen, girls always covering their faces in scarves, the shops being closed from one to four pm, so on and so forth. Besides, being a Hindi comedian, it’s easier to reach all kinds of people in the crowd, although English is still more popular,” says Akash enthusiastically. Despite Pune being incredibly responsive to farceurs, these artists sometimes have to watch their step when they amuse their listeners and spectators. “Pune stereotypes, family jokes, Bollywood, and even IT jokes (given the IT crowd) are famous with the Pune audience, but they can be a little sensitive about religion and local politics,” quips Sahil and then goes on with a small chuckle, “For example, cracking jokes about religion and politics is a no-no. We can jest about Donald Trump and Narendra Modi, as long as it does not go too far. So these are the two taboos that are faced while performing here.” Mandar Bhide, 33, who did standup comedy in Pune for a year before moving to Mumbai, is not only of the same mind as Sahil, but has had an experience in the past where the audience was offended for cracking
jokes on politics and religion. However, he praises the Pune audience and like to perform the stand-up comedy acts here. He asserts thoughtfully, “In spite of having a thick population, Pune has a close-knit community and they love jokes about themselves. What’s more, unlike other cities, the process here is a lot more disciplined and stage time is valued more as limited events happen compared to other cities.” Pune is where one can perform for all kinds of audiences; the IT crowd, the youth, the cosmopolitans, and even the typical Punekars. “There is a good balance of all the jokes. So the college crowd can comprehend jokes from today’s references or stereotyped jokes (which perhaps the cosmopolitans might not get the hang of), while grown-ups in their 50s to 60s will relate more to jokes from the 90s, like Doordarshan or the ways back then,” avers Pune-based stand-up comedian, Pushkar Bendre, 31, with vigour, throwing light on also how Pune stands out from other cities when it comes to stand-up comedy. Continuing further, he stresses, “Pune audience are more keen on watching stand-up comedy acts compared to other audiences. So much so that people from as far as Kothrud and Pimri-Chinchwad come all the way to Viman Nagar or Koregaon Park to watch a stand-up comedy act and then go back home, something which seldom happens in other cities, unless the act is in close vicinity.” Furthermore, Mandar remarks that while the Pune audience takes pleasure in local jokes and an easy laugh, they are evolving and reaching beyond the circle where they can grasp jokes at a universal level too. Commenting on the vocation of a stand-up comedian, which is promising and ensures a good future not just in Pune, but in India as a whole, Rajiv Thakur of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge fame, tells us with surety as clear as a bell, that laughter truly is the best medicine. “While the world has so many sorrows, there are numerous ways to treat them, but nothing helps like laughter,” he says solemnly, which is nowhere close to the funny man
whom we have seen perform, “The world needs lots of comedians, trust me. And to be honest, comedians are more emotional than other people, which is why they can observe and capture any emotion in a jiffy. They are just like other human beings and turn into funny ones when it’s time to make people laugh,” he says intelligibly. Kanan Gill, renowned stand-up comedian, actor and YouTuber, too believes that it depends from one comedian to another. “Off-stage a comedian can also be boring after making people laugh so much,” he quips as he ashes us a smile and goes on, “In fact, I think being funny 24/7 can get really tiresome, so it’s good to keep the two things, life on-stage and off-stage, separate.” Speaking of the comedy scene in Pune, it is undeniably heading in the right direction and is growing by leaps and bounds. The scene is getting noticed and venues are making a reputation for themselves to host open mics and stand-up comedy acts. Not just that, the quipsters from other parts of the country are also keyed up about performing in Pune, knowing that they can absorb the crowd. Foreseeing a bright future for comedy in the city, Akash peps up with utter aplomb, “Pune is bound to have a dedicated venue for stand-up comedy acts in the coming years. In fact, it’s growing so speedily, perhaps it won’t even be necessary for budding comedians to go to Mumbai to make a career in it.” Having enough venues, opportunities and stage time, the prospect of coming and performing in Pune is bound to cross one’s mind. However, some of them need a change, in this case, a little modications in the setting. In a standup comedy act, it’s vital that the audience face the comedian, because that generates direct contact, link and makes one pay rapt attention, which is imperative to enjoy the show. “Some venues are reluctant to change their decor, although some do take those efforts,” explains Sahil with a slight bummer. So what else does the comedy scene of Pune need today? The rst thing the city-based comedians tell us is the city’s call for a dedicated comedy club. Sahil cites, “When the city has a dedicated comedy club, the new, old, famous, budding comedians all come together. The promising ones get to watch experienced comedians and learn from them. They can also try innovative stuff and experiment with new kinds of comedy.” “If Pune can have its own dedicated comedy club, then it will be a breakthrough. Of course, we will also have to learn to sustain it, and this can be achieved through nothing but hard work, developing new content jokes, performing a lot and travelling to other cities and getting spotted,” explains Pushkar with a mark of longing and buoyancy. Thankfully, it is to the likes of these humourists that Pune gets its massive dose of laughter every week. With certain needful elements taken seriously and fullled, from having a proper set up for a comic act to the city showing delight in its very own comedy club, Pune won’t be far from being one from where some of the funniest comedians emerge, ready to take us on a laughter ride.
Akash Gaurav Singh