Disclaimer: As an aspiring stand-up comic, I need the support and encouragement of producers such as the ones listed here.
Standup comedy videos these days are regularly racking up millions of views on YouTube. And while comedians might look effortless in these performances, anyone who follows comedy knows that these bits are practised and mastered over months and years at open mics. These events are thus vital to the growth of the scene, and the people who manage the best ones are vital players. They’re lowkey compared to the A-listers, but their importance cannot be overstated. It’s at their stages that comics start out, bomb, improve, bomb, improve, bomb, improve, bomb… and hopefully eventually learn to kill.
Let’s start with the city boasting some of the scene’s biggest names right now: Mumbai. These five producers’ events aren’t always pure open-mics, in that not just anyone can drop in and get stage time. There’s an element of curation to them, and you need to work your way into the circles and convince people that you’re both talented and committed, and deserve a chance. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to share stage time with more experienced comics workshopping jokes that eventually become classics.
1. Rohan Desai and Shreemayee Das
Rohan Desai—who has performed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival with his hilariously offbeat character—and Shreemayee Das run rooms all over Mumbai under the name Grin Revolution. Their venues include Haiku Jam (Bandra), Doolally (Khar), and Leaping Windows (Versova). Grin Revolution’s shows are known for being cosy and intimate, and usually have stellar lineups. Their offerings include crowd-work shows, comedy debates, trial shows and more. Grin Revolution shows are among those favoured by comics, as evidenced by the gushing praise that they often share on social media. Also, watch out for A True Tinder Tale—a show in which Desai and Das recite the “95% true” tale of how they fell in love. Follow Rohan, Shremayee and Grin Revolution on Instagram.
How to get a spot: They do two-three open mics a month, including one for women-only. Registration forms are released a week before the open mic on their social media handles, and if you’re interested, you must fill it up within 24 hours. If you’re lucky, you could be one of the six people (three male, and three female) who are selected at random.
2. Punit Pania
Punit Pania runs Chalta Hai Comedy, which has been putting up shows since 2015. While Chalta Hai… started in Mumbai, now it also covers other cities, such as Gurgaon, Kolkata and Amritsar. The company organises a range of events, from small open mics for upcoming talent to auditorium shows with A-listers such as Kunal Kamra and Daniel Fernandes. Pania is a comic himself—check out his video on ‘Indian Jobs and Interns’. Follow Pania on Instagram.
How to get a spot: While most of their shows are curated, they do one open mic a month in Backspace in Thane. The event is announced on the Facebook page, and anyone interested in participating can leave a comment. The final selection is made at random through an Excel function.
3. Jeeya Sethi
Jeeya Sethi is a veteran stand-up comic and producer, who holds regular events at the Integral Space in Lower Parel and at Yogsagar in Juhu. Her properties include Femaplooza (a curated open mic where entry and participation is restricted only to women), Two-Halves, Bring-Your-Own-Breakfast, 420 project (where 4 comics do 20 mins each) and Break-up special. Follow Jeeya Sethi and Comedy Ladder on Instagram.
How to get a spot: The registration happens online on Insider. Just search for ‘come registration’ and you’ll see it there. Sign up, and get going. They have something for everyone through the week.
4. Rueben Kaduskar
Rueben Kaduskar—who appeared on Season 1 of Comicstaan—runs the Brown Bread Collective, which does shows in Adagio in Bandra and Chembur, Lilt in Lower Parel and The Square in Powai. Kaduskar recently crowd-sourced suggestions from his fans and Comicstaan judges, and wrote and recorded a set on those topics within just four days. Follow Rueben and The Brown Bread Collective on Instagram.
How to get a spot: At the end of every month, a form is released on Brown Bread Collective’s Facebook page, and two random selections are given a spot on their open mic. If you continue to perform well and craft a tight 5-minute set, you could then be given a regular spot on Monday at Adagio, plus a chance to open for comedians.
5. Navin Noronha
Navin Noronha is a standup comic from Mumbai, host of Keeping it Queer on IVM and an improviser with The Etceteras. He currently curates the Tuesday open mics and Thursday Night variety show at The Habitat—a major hub of stand-up comedy in Mumbai. Check out Navin’s stand-up videos and follow him on Instagram here.
How to get a spot: Registrations for the open mic spot on Tuesday at The Habitat are floated online. There is also a waiting line at the venue, in case someone drops out. Otherwise, for the Thursday variety night, which is a more curated event, Navin selects comics via a WhatsApp group.