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.

Citadel - - CONTENTS - BY JUILI EKLAHARE juiliekla­hare.citadel@gmail.com

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 modications 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 fullled, 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.

Pushkar Ben­dre

Sahil Ho­rane

Akash Gau­rav Singh

Man­dar Bhide

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