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Please stand up

Please stand up

If you live in Bombay, off late you’re probably measured for coolness by the number of times you’ve visited The Comedy store at Palladium. The Dark knight? Sure. NH7 Weekender? Definitely!  But XXXX’S set at The Store, OMFGSOFUNNYIALMOSTKILLEDMYSELF. I’m not exaggerating. Yes, I admit that the heady rush of exhilaration has died down somewhat. In 2010, it was the biggest thing since Jesus. Suddenly every publication in the country was doing profiles of upcoming talent and writing trend stories that just about stopped short of taking off their metaphorical shirts and throwing them on stage. Acquaintances wanted to be comedians. During sets, women friends made eyes and started touching their hair a lot. Twitter exploded with one-liners from hopeful amateurs. And amateur nights? Yeah, there was probably a bar somewhere in Belapur or Thane, that didn’t have one.

At Project Small Fry, we attempt to document the vein of a subculture that may in the future be held as the first record of the stirrings of a great youth movement. What do you mean, we don’t really do that? Well, the “babble” about TV and books are supposed to be a build up, okay? In any case, we’re a big fan of stand up comedy ourselves. We follow who needs to be followed on Twitter, we go to The Store (if we can afford the tickets) we free ourselves for things like this. All this is reason enough, to try and write about what’s great and not so great, about the stand up comedy scene in the city.

What’s great:

It’s a lovely alternative entertainment option. And it isn’t always expensive. Shows with local talent cost as much as the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR. And you get to listen to someone poke fun at the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR.

It will open your life to a lot of off-the-beaten-track entertainment options. Fun fact: Comedians are a restless bunch, always trying to break new ground and work on new cool projects. Like All India Bhakchod, a podcast by comedians Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba, for example. The more projects, the more laughs. It’s simple maths really.

You will start giving mainstream entertainment the slimmest sliver of a chance. A month ago, the only reason I’d agree to watch even 30 minutes of programming on MTV, would be if you told me that Raghu was converting to Buddhism live on Roadies season 8. Now, when I hear that a comedian I like, had something to do with the script of a television show or wrote such-and-such awards ceremony, I’m more likely to watch. Read Sharanya’s column this week to understand what I mean.

Jokes about Andheri. Jokes about parliament. Jokes about Pooja Bedi. Win.

What’s not so great:

Nine times out of ten, a stand up routine is not somewhere I would take my mother. Now calm down. I’m not talking about the cussing or even the jokes about religion. But, speaking as someone who is actually a patron of stand up, I gotta say, sometimes, comedians get carried away with the laughs. When that happens you can almost see the blood of super human recklessness rush to their faces before they leap, Willy Wonka like, over the line that goes from hilarious to offensive. Check out this clip from Louis, a clever sketch show by legendary comedian Louis CK. Jokes that skim the edges of sensitive issues had best make a point. If it’s a potshot without a point, I won’t laugh. Why should I?

The bandwagon people. These are the people in the audience who are laughing so hard, they’re almost doubled over. “What did he just say? I missed it,” You might ask of such a person. “Oh. I didn’t catch it either,” they’ll reply, eyes streaming over with mirth. So annoying. Though technically, this isn’t stand ups fault. It’s kind of the fault of human nature.

That’s all folks. More about this trend when it develops, I guess. For now, we love how stand up is going in the city. We love the veterans and the newer comics.  We love how fresh and new it all is. We love how funny has become a business and how it’s new enough to not be tainted (as far as we know) with the hypocrisy of most industries in the country. We love that years from now, when it actually is tainted, we’ll be able to shake our heads and say that this, 2010 to 2012, was comedy’s golden era, that we were unknowingly part of a revolution in entertainment and that we wrote about it on Project Small Fry.

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Big bang head on desk repeatedly

Big bang head on desk repeatedly

“Dude, did you check out that episode of The Big Bang Theory? Oh man, it was so funny. Sheldon Cooper is so funny OMG LOL ROFLMAX.”

Yeah, I get this a lot. Every body I know – human, dog and otherwise keeps telling me about how awesome TBBT is and how it’s the ‘funniest show like ever’. Statistically, they say 4 in every 5 people like TBBT. Statistically, they also say that 4 out of 5 statistics are made up. However I don’t need any statistical backing when I say I hate the show. Actually, wait. Let me rephrase that. I don’t hate the big bang theory. I fucking loathe it. I loathe it more than I loathe tacky girls wearing purple velvet slacks with ‘bebe’ written across the buttocks. I mean come on…at least learn how to spell babe.

According to me, one of the main reasons people like TBBT is because of the laugh track. It’s like a comedy 101 for dummies book – it guides you on when to laugh.

“Oh look Sheldon said something unbelievably long, laced with big words AND there’s a laugh track at the end of it so this must be funny HAHAHAHAHA.” 

This leads me to my next point. Why do people love Sheldon exactly? He’s nothing but an insufferable know-it-all whose head I want to badger in with an electron microscope. (For poetic justice, of course.) People say he is one of the greatest characters ever written for television. I say he is nothing but an overgrown man-child who is infuriatingly impossible to live with. Of course, if Sheldon was here right now he would correct me and say that he was not impossible because he existed. He would tell me that the word I was looking for was ‘improbable’. After which I would take a sledgehammer and whack him in the cojones.

I hate Sheldon because he is annoying. And as a viewer, I can’t have somebody this annoying hold the show together. In Arrested Development, the entire family was annoying and stupid – but the protagonist Michael was the sane one. That balanced things out. Here, your most annoying character is running the show, and that’s not good.

The Big Bang theory is mediocre comedy at best, and I’m being way too generous when I say ‘mediocre’. There is one good thing about the show. Penny. Excuse me while I make my way to the bathroom.

Amogh Ranadive is a stand up comic, television writer and generally awesome guy. He is a multi billionaire who gives away luxury cars to his 120 person strong staff. Also, he is delusional. Slightly.

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