Funny Side Up!
Of late, Kochi seems to be on a laughing spree – thanks to the refreshing wave of Stand-Up Comedy! In fact the newfound group, Kochin Komedians, is spreading cheer and laughter with back to back performances across leading restaurants, cafes and popular joints. What’s even more fascinating is that the audience seem to have embraced this form of entertainment in full gusto. RITZ gets into conversation with the professional comedians who seem to be taking Kochiites on a laughathon.
The Comedy Circle
The Kochin Komedians, as a group was started by George Vivian Paul with the help of Raouf Gangjee the founder of the The Komedians network on 20th August 2016 but by early November, it had to its credit, over 50 shows across Kerala. George is a qualified Civil Engineer, who stumbled into stand-up comedy while working in Kolkata. After his first open mic performance, he realised that Stand-Up Comedy was his calling and went on to pursue it as a career. “My friends and I had decided that we would perform at the ‘Stand up Comedy Open mic’, which is an open platform for anyone who could perform for 5 minutes straight. Apparently, I was the only one who actually turned up! After my first time on stage, I couldn’t wait to get back on stage again.” he smiles.
“Kerala, has some brilliant age old traditional art forms that are popular even today. One such art form is the ‘Chakyarkoothu’….It has it’s similarities to the present day stand-up comedy” – George Vivian Paul
Is Kerala new to this recent entertainment option? “Not really,” says George. “Kerala has some brilliant age-old traditional art forms that are popular even today. One such art form is the ‘Chakyarkoothu’, where the performer in his traditional colourful headgear and makeup, narrates instances from Hindu epics intermingled with comments or references to current socio- political events and sometimes, even the audience. It has it’s similarities to the present day stand-up comedy where the performer in a more contemporary style and attire narrates jokes drawing on topics as the mundane as attire choices or as relevant as a burning social issue. Furthermore we have Ottamthullal, Kadhaprasangam and so on. Over the years, God’s own country has nurtured her own crop of seasoned comedians, mimicry, theatre and film artistes like Adoor Bhasi, Jagathy Sreekumar and Salim Kumar, who have not just entertained audiences but have also laid the base for a comedy culture. Yes, stand-up comedy as a form of entertainment is in its nascent stage in Kochi but the response so far has been overwhelming and I see a very exciting future ahead,” he says.
The Nutty Professor?
Vinay Menon totally goes by what the famous comedian, George Carlin, once said, “If you are going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh or they are going to kill you!” Vinay discovered his passion for stand-up comedy in 2012 when he did his first ‘open mic’ performance in Bengaluru and since then, there has been no looking back. He quit his job as a software engineer and took to teaching which gave him more time to pursue his passion. He draws inspiration from anything and everything around him and likes to direct his audiences’ attention on present-day issues during his shows. “What’s unique about stand-up comedy is that it is a live form of entertainment where you get to interact with the audience and like my mentor, Sanjay Manaktala, says, ‘The feedback is immediate!’ Even when you are watching a movie, the ‘live’ factor is missing,” he says.
“George Carlin, once said, “If you are going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh or they are going to kill you!” – Vinay Menon
A product of Evam theatre group in Chennai, Vinay likes to combine the elements of theatre at his shows. “I wouldn’t say stand-up comedy is a glamorous career choice but the response from the audience is what you live off! There are of course options like corporate shows, auditorium shows or youtube videos that offer one the opportunity to make it into the big league. I for one, would like to facilitate a future, where people enjoy the lighter side of life and are open to laughing at themselves!”
A Marwadi Twist!
Your inspiration in stand-up comedy? “Rahul Gandhi!” comes the swift reply! For just a fraction of a second, you are caught off guard and then, when it sets in, you can’t help but laugh. Having accomplished his mission, he continues unperturbed, “Brian Regan is my favourite comedian. He jokes about the simple things in life and his in-depth perception of each of the topics is what intrigues me,” says Avinash Agarwal, a professional stand-up comedian who was recently in Kochi for a show. Avinash has a background in theatre and performing arts and has performed in over 200 shows across the country, having shared the stage with Manisha Koirala, Abhay Deol, Johny Lever and Anurag Kashyap. He was also placed among the top 30 speakers at the Toastmaster’s World Championship of public speaking (USA) and has strong industry experience in facilitating media, launch and public events. He has also worked in brand related scripts featuring Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra.
“The sound of laughter gives me a kick” – Avinash Agarwal
But this is definitely not a conventional career choice so why stand-up comedy? “Like any art form, this is a creative outlet that gives you total freedom. You write, edit, practise and perform your content. Yes, you are responsible for what you are saying on stage but with each performance, it gets better and the mistakes add to the learning curve. Some like to court controversies or prefer to be sarcastic but I like to observe and play it safe with harmless or mischievous jokes. The sound of laughter gives me a high,” he grins. He is now gearing up for his biggest show, a ‘One Hour Special’ to be held at Hyderabad very soon.
Quick Five with the Comedians
Hate: Silence/ Spinach
Must Have: Perseverance/ Relatability
Should Never Have: Ego
Most Desired: Laughter/Applause