No kidding: Comedy is serious business now

Vineet Gill, Times of India

GURGAON: Comedy is increasingly becoming serious business in Gurgaon. Be it corporate parties, casual bureaucratic gatherings, wedding ceremonies or the usual night clubs, comedians – whether it is amateurs or pros – can be suddenly seen everywhere in the city.
And according to many comic artists, Gurgaon – having just the right number of corporate houses, clubs, and comedy enthusiasts – might be on its way to overtaking the established laughter-zones in Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore.

Amit Tandon has been organizing standup events on a regular basis in the city, most recently, the ninth installment of the show named, ‘Grandmaster of Comedy.’

“When it comes to comedy, Gurgaon is faring really well. The money is flowing in and enough people are coming out to watch the shows,” said Tandon, a stand-up comedian himself. According to him, comedy is well-received only in cultures which aren’t over sensitive, and Tandon’s theory has it that the level of maturity in Gurgaon’s young is just right for the jokes to click. “This is a cosmopolitan city. Almost everyone is a migrant from other cities, and all clients our well-educated. So, if you do a Mumbai joke in Mumbai, you might get booed. But if you do a Gurgaon joke in Gurgaon, it’s not a problem,” he said.

Neville Shah, a Mumbai-based comedian, who was in Gurgaon on Sunday for a performance at the Epicentre, said, “I have already done more corporate gigs in Gurgaon than I have done in any other city.” But Shah said that even if the market is opening up, the money offered to the comedians still remains low. “Most comedians are doing something full time on the side to sustain themselves,” said Shah, a full-time creative director with an ad-agency.

However, money is not a problem once a comedian establishes himself. Depending on who is performing and who is the organizer, stand-up artistes can get anything up to Rs 4 lakh an hour. But setting aside the more established comedians like Papa C J, the lesser known faces get much less money. About Rs 5,000 a performance for them is a good sell. “This might be one of the reasons why standup is picking up. People are realizing that it is not only desirable, but also affordable,” said Keshav Naidu, a stand-up comedian and a resident of Gurgaon.

According to Neeti Patla, a comedian and an organizer, an average stand-up performer is getting around 6-8 corporate gigs every year in Gurgaon, which is a decent number. Add to this the tens of comedy evenings and open-mic nights happening in the city every month, and you have yourself a standup scene with some potential.

While there is enough demand for comedy in the city, and the new challenge is to stock up the supply. “In Gurgaon, the market has expanded a little too quickly – so quickly that the supply hasn’t caught up. The comedians are too few and those in the business aren’t able to keep up and write new jokes this quickly,” said Raghav Mandava, a Gurgaon-based comedian and the man behind Cheese Monkey Mafia, which organizes shows in the city once a month

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