What if John Lennon had Malayali roots? Ever been to a funeral with great food? And do Japanese and Kannada sound the same? These are just some of the hard-hitting questions that the Yuck Collective is trying to answer. What/who is Yuck? We had the same question. So we chased down Neelaksh Mathur—one of the members of Bengaluru’s newest comedy collective—and got the full scoop. Complete with its own comedy club, podcast and secret performances to die for, Yuck is the hottest new comedy crew in town.
The collective—which also includes Harman Preet Singh, Gaurav Purohit, Hari Krishna and Vijeth VS—has been a part of the comedy scene for a while, but it was only earlier this year that they launched their own club at Flax in Bengaluru and started a podcast, forcing them to finally pick a name. So why did they go with Yuck, exactly?
“If I had to be really really honest with you, there is a comedian called Patrice O’Neal who[m] all of us love,” Mathur told DeadAnt. “There’s this anecdote that when Kevin Hart was performing a joke, Patrice threw a Yellow Pages phone book at him on stage and said—Yuck! Read this. It’s better than your jokes. That ‘yuck’ sort of stuck with us.”
“If I think of it in a very optimistic way, the name would work even five years down the line if, say, we launch a product. ‘Yuck’ has that sort of irreverence that you expect from comedians. From that lens, it fit everything we were looking for,” he explained.
The collective runs the Yuck Comedy Club at Flax in Bengaluru’s hip Indiranagar neighbourhood, where you can go watch some of the country’s top comedians. With open mics through the week and lineup shows on the weekend, the club is steadily building a community of comedy fans. “If you pick any weekend and come to Yuck, all the lineups are nice,” said Mathur. “I’m not even plugging open mics, that’s completely up to the audience. The tickets are cheap. But I think on weekends we put a good lineup together and that could be a fun night out for them.”
In addition to hitting the stage regularly, the guys also have a podcast which serves as their riffing ground and are frequently joined by fellow comics on tour. The reason they entered the comedy podcast game—which is more packed than a Virar local—was to be on people’s radar. “Important people from within the industry at least are aware of us or care about what we do because of the podcast. I’m also being too optimistic about it but from a live show audience perspective yes, we have seen people showing up from the podcast.”
Yuck stand out for being a new comedy collective at a time when most comics have abandoned the format. Turns out, just like the generation before them, they felt they had to reinvent the (collective) wheel in order to build an online presence and catch people’s attention. “A majority of [comedians] are very self-critical of our own standup and have been contemplating putting stuff out. And that is just counterintuitive to the game we are playing,” said Mathur. “The game we are playing is about numbers. The number of people knowing us, showing up for live shows. So we thought we’ll build it as a brand or meme page to build the online distribution we were looking for.”
The collective’s approach to promoting their shows is to post snippets of live performances from the club and take their chances with the almighty algorithm. “I want to get people interested in the comedians who perform at that venue,” said Mathur. “The audience will know we curate good artists and a good vibe and so they should come watch us or consume whatever we’re creating.”
The group is also deeply interested in editing, film-making and design, and are looking for opportunities in those spaces. The core model for the collective was based on the hip-hop collective Odd Future—which included filmmakers, comedians and even fashion designers alongside musicians like Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. “They would take up creative projects like prank shows, an album or a web series,” said Mathur. “Very few people loved what they did, but the people who loved what they did were decision-makers in a larger context.”
An early win for the collective was booking American standup comedian and podcaster Aakash Singh—who co-hosts Flagrant 2 alongside the “Infamous” Andrew Schulz—for a sold out night at their comedy club. As a bonus, they got a shout-out from Schulz on his Instagram story.
Mathur credited Balraj Ghai, founder of The Habitat, Mumbai for putting them in touch with Singh, who was looking to get some stage time in Bengaluru. “We looked at it like—we can all just invite 30 of our best audience members and give them a good show,” he said. “We also treated it like a secret show, not revealing who was going to perform. We sold like 4-5 tickets and within 10 minutes of uploading the BookMyShow link, Andrew Schulz randomly put up the screenshot on his story. We were sold out in under 30 seconds. This had never happened. For us to see that was just crazy.”
According to Mathur, Singh was most interested in understanding how the standup comedy scene worked in the country. The collective was surprised to see how effortlessly Singh—who came from a very different comedy perspective—engaged with the 30-odd-seater room. “You know how a lot of your peers control rooms and you’ve felt a different energy when some of the best comedians in the country perform live. And then someone coming from a very different kind of comedy background, for him to run a small 30-seater show was really interesting to watch.”
Singh is not the only big name to have performed at their comedy club. Kanan Gill, Tanmay Bhat, Aishwarya Mohanraj and Rahul Subramanian are some of the big names from the Indian comedy circuit who have also been a part of these secret shows.
We asked Mathur if there are any other “secret gigs” lined up and he chuckled and said he can’t commit to anything at the moment.