Dead Ant

Review: Season 2’s Anecdotal Round on ‘Comicstaan’ Offers Insight into a Comic’s Life & How Their Brain Works

By Akhil Sood 17 July 2019

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Recap

In one of the previous pieces, I had jumped the gun a bit and declared that they are no longer screaming out names of contestants and judges like they do in pro wrestling or boxing. For that, I am sorry. They are very much still doing it.

This episode’s theme is anecdotal comedy, with Zakir Khan teaching the young comedians how to approach the form. I have plenty to say about Khan the comedian, but Dead Ant has informed me I will be doing no such thing.

Instead, let’s summarise the proceedings: All the comedians recounted tales from their lives here. At its best, anecdote-based humour is an insight into a comic’s life and how their brain works. When it isn’t done well and doesn’t land, all you’re left with is an outlandish story told via clichés and recycled storytelling tropes. We get a bit of both here, and it ends with Zakir Khan recounting a story about his father’s culinary rituals.  

Highlights

We get a long sequence of Zakir Khan interacting with the contestants, patiently explaining how to structure stories, what to focus on, where to draw the laughs.

Khan demands at least two jokes early in the set; explains how the storyteller matters as much as the story itself; the role of silence; having an “emotional authority” over the audience, and how keeping their attention takes precedence over even laughs.

There’s clips of all of them bombing at open mics, trying out their material—we see a sequence of Shreeja Chaturvedi telling an open-mic crowd how she thought what she’d said was actually quite funny, to pin-drop silence. Aakash Gupta bombs during his set, and we see an exasperated Khan looking away.

It’s an interesting, if fleeting, insight into the degree of finesse and polishing that’s required before a joke finally becomes funny (and sometimes doesn’t).

Retirement Watch

  1. Prison rape. Don’t drop the soap. Drop, instead, this reference from the 1800s.
  2. Any and all mentions of “sanskaar”—it was borderline at best when it first began. Now, that horse is long dead.

From The Judges’ Panel

Continuing from last time, let’s talk once more of the way the comedians are critiqued on Comicstaan. Sure, every judge ends their feedback with “great set, thank you very much”, but there’s a lack of genuine insight. Are they all just scared that people will catch on and everyone will become a great comedian (contestants and viewers both), so they’re wary of offering any constructive feedback? Or has the show been edited in a way that only the sugary platitudes are shown, while the actual exchanges of ideas have been left at the editing table? In general, comedians tend to be an opinionated lot, so it’s odd to see the judges practising excessive restraint even when there’s obvious criticism to be made.  

Write This Down

  1. “Story aur anecdote mein wohi farak hai jo kahani aur kisse mein hota hai. Kahani zindagi hoti hai, aur kissa toh aaj bhi hua tha, aur woh poori kahani nahin hai,” Zakir Khan summarised.
  2. The storyteller is more important than the story because the story setup and the storyteller together have to make the story worth the listener’s while.
  3. “Two laughs, and then we get into the story,” is Khan’s pro-tip for getting the laughs per minute going right from the beginning.

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