Thursday, November 08, 2012

Stand up Comedy @ Ista

21st September 2012
Venue: Ista, MG Road
Sponsored by Black Dog
Associate Sponsors: Ista hotels

First of all, thank you Ginger Claps Team for inviting me to the event. I want to thank them for two things specifically. One, they gave me an evening filled with laughter, that too in a star hotel with a great ambience.

Two, when I asked them why they had given me a free pass, they told me I was an influential blogger! Really? Why so? I had more than 15000 visitors to my blog in one year, it seems, and that made me influential! I was flattered.

Secondly, I am sorry for the delay in posting this article about the event. It should have come much earlier... and I don’t seem to have valid excuses.

Having attended one such show at Costa Coffee, I had known that it would be mostly adult humour. But when the first comedian, Praveen Kumar opened the show with the line ‘the cleanest word you are going to hear today is f***’, I thought, ‘Really? Dirtier than that? Haven’t we, by now, had all the adult humour there is to have, spared nothing to imagination, thanks to the new emboldened generation and it’s undaunted dabbling-splashing-soaking in adult stuff everywhere –movies-books-music-SMS-facebook-public forums? Haven’t we gone overboard already? Is this evening going to be further going-overboard?’
It was as difficult to imagine as the idea of ‘more dead’.
But when Ashwin Mathew finished speaking, I thought, Praveen was right!

It was on the face and uninhibited.
But it was laughter all the way... before I embark on my views, my opinions, and so on, let me tell you that I did enjoy the evening thoroughly and laughed like I hadn’t for the longest while.

The show started an hour late, I don’t know why. Guys, you ought to do much better in time-keeping. We waited and waited...

We had three comedians – Praveen Kumar, Dr. Anil Abraham and Ashwin Mathew.


He has some really good jokes – I will not give away all his jokes but will mention some of them.
I liked the ones on Rakhi Sawant(you can die quickly by jumping off a cliff in Khatron ke Khiladi or go for slow death by ,marrying Rakhi Sawant), BITS (Birla Institute of Tech. and Sciences), thank God, Tata did not open the Institute!, a desperate gay without a partner could become a suicide bomber – for he then could blow himself!, a TV show with 2 and a half men – Akshay, Shah Rukh and Karan Johar :-), Dhoni could campaign for Whisper for he is going through the worst period of his life, Chaminda vaas’s son has such a long name that his ID card is the only one that says PTO! Kurkure Ad on abdomen belts of cricketers – Teda hai par mera hai...

Quite original all of them and good ones too. They are the kind that are safe in any forum – no one would be offended for they are not racist, not sexist, don’t make fun of cities, ethnicities, etc.

But there were other jokes that were sexist- jokes about women drivers, husband-wife jokes, jokes about cities – Bombay and Bangalore, and jokes about ethnicities/races – Tamil vs the rest of India.
I am not saying such jokes must be avoided, they bring out the laughs too, but one has to be careful not to go too far, for some of them can be irritating and also seen as self defence/promotion of personal views in the guise of humour.

But then it also depends on the geographical location of the speaker.

For instance, I liked the jokes about Bombay – ‘while you live in what is called a ‘house’ in Bangalore, the one you get to live in, in Bombay is called a ‘shoerack’, Bombay hotel rooms are so small, you cannot even think of porn!’
But if you are speaking in Bombay, you may not want to go on and on with these jokes.

The self deprecatory jokes about ‘Madrasi’s were funny too. And given how sensitive the Tamil people are about the perceptions others have about them and how offended they usually are at Madrasi jokes, this kind of joking by a Tamilian is a good sign – it’s a healthy change. It’s high time the community learnt to laugh at itself.
The Gujjus, Marwadis, Sindhi’s, Bihari’s, Mallus, all of them endure jokes about themselves, don’t they?

Since we had a Tamilian speaker on stage, the mention of rajnikanth was inevitable. Again, this is the kind of stuff you want to be careful about. Don’t take it too far. As it is, we get to see enough of this everywhere – offices, social circles, public forums, other stand up comedy shows – all around, we see Tamilians carrying their rajni with them on their backs everywhere they go and thrust him upon people around them – comparing him with everyone – Shah Rukh, Salman...
But they are careful not to compare him with Aamir Khan or Amitabh. Clever fellows. They know they don’t really have a chance if they go that far.

These are the kind of things that reinforce perceptions that others have about the Tamil community – insular, fanatic, unable to identify with the rest of India and Indians...and so on.
For a change you should try cracking jokes ABOUT Rajni. Bring him down from his pedestal, make him look like a Buffoon, laugh at him...for a change. It’s not very difficult after all. If nothing else, you could crack jokes, in fact plenty of them, definitely on the theme of ‘beauty and the beast’!

There was however one joke about Rajni that was superb – A girl lost her virginity and Rajnikanth gave it back to her!

The self deprecatory jokes about his(Praveen’s) person were not funny – ‘whatever is below my belt is a joke’ and such others..., for no one in the audience has any knowledge of it! People laugh only when they are able to imagine, when already know what you are talking about; if you talk about things they don’t know, they are unable to imagine.

While he has content, Praveen could work on delivery. The way he delivers his jokes – pronunciation and accent – you could adopt a complete Tamil accent, just like Dr. Anil, who spoke in a pukka South Indian accent which actually gave more effect to his humour or you could be free of accent, but you need to be on one side – don’t be on the fence.
Another thing is voice intonation and modulation. These need much improvement and they could, if corrected, bring out double the laughs.


This guy was cute, funny.
He had donned the attire of a grandpa, a wig to go with it and a pukka South Indian accent. In pretending to be trying his best to keep clean in his joking, he brought out much laughter.
His ‘innocent’ accidents such as ‘pleasant mammary’, ‘booby trap’, ‘tit for tat’, ‘social cervix’ were very clever. And funny.

It was very thoughtful of him to make use of ‘accent’ to create humour. The pronounced South Indian accent at once won the people over even before the jokes began.

His use of a character of ‘Pakkada mane Sarasamma’ – bringing her in now and then, also was a great idea.

Bringing in such elements – funny costumes, accents, characters – has many advantages. It wins over the audience immediately. It eases the burden on the speaker for he does not have to rely on content alone, it gives added effect to humour, it makes it possible to make people laugh using simpler content (closer to reality), for instance, the ways of ordinary people – you could also make use of a particular geography, a particular time etc., and not rely heavily on sex, film stars etc.

But it also raises people’s expectations, and a speaker, if not prepared with good content could become slack, lose the audience’s interest, kind of disillusion them about his costume-accent and all.
There were such moments, a few of them, where I thought Anil’s content could have been better, keener, sharper... some trimming would be good and of course, more jokes in place of the ones that meander.

My favourite is this.
‘....pretty girl in a medical college...’
‘Pretty girl!? In a medical college!? What is she doing there? For, all the Cinderella’s usually take arts, Aishwarya’s and Rani’s and their like take journalism....but Cinderella’s two ugly sisters will defffnettly go to medical college!
A completely clean joke that drew laughter from all.

And I loved ‘Pakkada Mane Sarasamma’.


Of all of them, he had the lion’s share. And he needed it for the number of jokes he had.

There were all kinds of jokes. Jokes about people, the idiotic questions they ask, the things they do, the way Indians scratch their crotch, Mallus, their accent, their idiosyncrasies, about growing up, religion, Obama, Clinton, facebook – what is this poke, and poke back? And what’s with this ‘like’ feature? Someone says ‘my dog died’ and six people have ‘liked it’ : )... buying condoms, lots of jokes about Kerala...horny mallus... there was some slapstick too.
He was the dirtiest of them all. His dirty jokes were so dirty, on the face and bold that he made the other two look clean.
But they were also so power packed, so funny, so irresistible that you burst out laughing and after you laughed for a full minute you thought you should have grimaced perhaps.

He had the right expressions, vigorous body language as well as voice intonation. Are you a voice over artist?

He was highly animated, appropriately most of the time - but there were times when I thought he shouted too loud into the mike, at times too fast, that I missed a word or two.

I thought he could organize his speech better, reorder the jokes such that he kept the tempo gradually rising. There were, oftentimes, hilarious jokes that were followed by a slack one. The ones about boys taking beatings from their mother, for instance – I thought was overdone and mixed in between some other jokes that were more hilarious.

I loved the ones below... loved many others too, but can’t recollect them or cant mention them here!

‘How much did you get in maths?
Out of?
22 out of pity’

And this one...from the Bible!

When the people gathered were about to pelt stones at the guilty woman, Jesus said ‘let the first stone come from the one who has never sinned in all his life’. There came a stone flying right through the crowd and hit the woman on her face. Jesus looked the thrower and said ,’Mother, sometimes you piss me off’. (Mary had never sinned, you see, not even in her conception)

His last act was truly Grand Finale.
A scene – A veteran Tamil actor is approached by his son who confesses he is gay. The actor clutches his chest, his face muscles twitching and all – and Ashwin did a great job of showing this, and says in tamil (as dramatically as you can imagine) “In that film, in the song where Kamala Hassan and Silk Smitha are dancing, when I am looking at Silk Smitha’s thighs, you, my son, you are looking at Kamala Hassan’s ass****?!!!

A few days earlier I saw Ashwin in English Vinglish. Though it was a small role, it was a job done well. I hope you get a lion’s share in movies too.

To all the comedians, I must say, while I did laugh a lot, leaning on sex is the easy way out. It is far more challenging to make people laugh without the use of sex. It would require true talent.
In fact, the ability to make people laugh with clean humour is what separates the wheat from the chaff.
I must mention Rajneesh Kapoor, whom I saw performing in Costa Coffee, a few months ago. He was the best of the performers that evening and he steered clear of sex, his jokes were clean.

You may use sex but could you keep it subtle?

Because at this rate, very soon, you will all run out of matter and find yourself scrambling for topics and ways to make people laugh, just like Mallika Sherawat, having revealed all, has nothing more to reveal and cannot get anyone to take interest in her anymore.
It’s always advisable not to run headlong into the subject but move around it and leave something to imagination.

And of course, my thanks to the sponsors notwithstanding... ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IS DETRIMENTAL TO PHYSICAL, MENTAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH!


Akshay Gopal said... was fun reading your blog...i loved each and every bit of it...

Sumath Karnad said...

Truly a wonderful blog! Looks like you had fun! Indian stand-up acts do deserve some sort of adulation! Cheers to Black Dog for an amazing event!

Asha said...

you seem to have had an interesting evening. that Ashwin is he the english teacher in the movie?.

But somehow i can't digest the sexual jokes these people crack in the movies using double entendres.

You have beautifully put it in your last few paragraphs.

Sowmya said...

Akshay, Sumath and Asha,

Thank you for your all the nice words...

Yes Asha, Ashwin is the English teacher...and yes too much brazenness everywhere... people don't realize the beauty and charm of restraint...