– Gayatri Vasudevan, II M.A English
When Amar Agarwal decided to start a comedy club for live entertainment in India in 2008, he would never have expected the comedy business to thrive this phenomenally in India. A study in ‘Education World’ magazine reveals that over 500 comedians in India are playing their cards in the entertainment industry. The 21st century saw the transformations of pubs into comedy clubs and the popularity of comedy gradually spread to theaters, corporate parties and even in sangeeth functions during Indian weddings.
The release of the second season of ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ added a lot of excitement amongst Stella Marians, inspiring women too to share the stand-up stage with men. Especially with women like Aditi Mittal, Mallika Dua, and Radhika Vaz talking about the experiences of women in hilarious ways, one can really see that stand-up comedy is rather a boon for India. Says Namitha Ann Thomas, a I year PG student from the Department of English, “comedy is a liberating space, especially with women comedians getting on the stage and outrightly commenting on the government using satire. Comedy has become the tool to fight patriarchy and it is interwoven into the fabric of our everyday existence.”
Social media has constantly supported comedians to establish an identity for themselves but also has opened them to a lot more criticism. Media has also helped the comics to take their performances to a whole new level, especially with Amazon and Netflix competing to cease the right joke. But, comics confess that live performances elevate the mood and helps them connect better with the audience.
The upsurge of live entertainment in Chennai probably evolved with comical performances in theatre popularized by artists like Crazy Mohan. Staging his comical plays with props and supporting actors, the inclusion of standup in Chennai was not an intrusion but rather was welcomed with open hearts. A simple stage with a comedian imparting the same amount of humor became a conventional and more preferred mode of entertainment.
Stand up in Chennai was popularized by Karthik Kumar, followed by Aravind SA, Alexander Babu, and many others. A lot of them quit their stressful 9 to 5 software jobs, and this provides for great material during their set, with funny corporate stories and constantly recalling their horrendous decision to pursue an education and a job, only to realize their calling is stand-up. 2017 saw the dawn of Tamil stand-up comedy with Praveen Kumar’s 36 Vayathinile, encouraging more comics to take part.