Khar Comedy Club: A Safe Haven For Standup Comedians In The Heart Of Mumbai

By Shantanu Sanzgiri 10 April 2024 4 mins read

Khar Comedy Club is the new "it" club where you'll find some of India's biggest comedians on the bill every week. Why? Here's the story.

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If you dream of running into your favourite comedians and having a casual chat with them, Khar Comedy Club should be on your weekly itinerary. On any given day, you can find some of the leading comedians of the country—including Zakir Khan, Abhishek Upmanyu, Kanan Gill and Prashasti Singh—hitting the stage to test their new material. But what’s the big draw of this cosy 40-seater venue in the heart of Mumbai?

Founded by comedian Sumit Sourav, Khar Comedy Club (KCC) is the new “it” club in town. Sourav and his team—which includes fellow comedians Abhinav Tewary, Devanshi Shah, Karan Veer Khurana and professionals Ajay Tirkey, Ajay Singh and Anshita Aggarwal—started KCC because they were tired of dancing to the tune of producers and club-owners in order to get stage time. “I don’t think any of us thought that we’d start a club,” says Shah. “It came out of a sort of desperation for stage time and gradually we started enjoying the production side of things. We wanted a home where we could all perform.” And in that process, they’ve created a safe haven for comedians to come, test out new material, and even bomb without shame or the fear of losing your spot. 

At KCC, comedians are encouraged to try out new material. This means that you might bomb and not get that laugh. But you’ll still have a spot the next day. “When you perform at any other venue, the producer is sitting at the back and judging you as a comic,” says Shah. “When I used to bomb at other venues, I would think that I’m never going to get stage time here again. That’s the conditioning of the comedy scene. But as comedians, we know that there are days you’ll kill and days when your material will fall flat. But only if you try new material will you grow as a performer and in turn the overall scene will grow.”

As comedians, the monetary aspect of running a club took a backseat for them. “None of us were expecting to make any kind of money,” says Shah. The real appeal of owning and running a club was the freedom of getting up on stage every week to workshop material. It was all born out of their love for the art form. 

“Comedians can sense it when a producer is in it for the money or for the love of standup,” says Shah. “They genuinely feel like everyone here is working towards making comedy more accessible. Realistically speaking, these comics are also not really going to make money from a 40-seater room. For that they have the auditorium shows. This is their playground.” 

But a club can’t run solely on the basis of passion, especially in a city like Mumbai where rents are sky-high and clubs have had to shut down due to a lack of revenue. “If we do it for two months and the club shuts down, it’s been a failed experiment for all of us,” says Sourav. “So there definitely has to be some sort of structure in place for it to function as a business.” 

This includes providing a seamless experience to the audience and the performers who come to the venue. Every time we’ve visited the club, there has been one team member at the entrance to usher the ticket-holders in. Once you’re in, you enter a cosy space with some music playing to set the vibe for the evening. “All these small things add to the overall experience of the audience. That’s what will bring them back to the club,” says Sourav.

With not much prior experience in running a club, Sourav and his team had to learn on the go, with lots of trial-and-error. The initial months were extremely slow, with barely any revenue coming in. But the comedians in the scene were extremely supportive, generous with both their dates and their constructive feedback. “The bigger comics don’t have to struggle for spots,” says Sourav. “But then one day Biswa [Kalyan Rath] dropped in and he loved the space. He told the others and soon Kanan [Gill], Prashasti [Singh] and Urooj [Ashfaq] gave us their dates. That’s how we’ve found our standing. Everyone has been extremely patient with us and we can’t thank them enough.” 

Sourav is also very proud of the fact that they pay every performer who comes to the club. That’s one of the ways KCC has earned the trust of their peers. “We are probably the only club in Mumbai that is paying the comedians properly,” says Sourav. “After we’ve sold 20 tickets to cover our logistical costs, everything goes to the lineup. And we are very proud to say that for the last 4-5 months we have paid almost every comedian who has been on the poster for any show. Even when we were in losses we paid the comedians. Because it was very important for me to set the right precedent. If we are successful five years down the line, it should be known that our principles were the same from the first day. From the biggest comedian to up-and-coming comics, they all have the same deal.”

Comedians and comedy thrives on feedback. And we want to make that as accessible as possible.

Sumit Sourav

With the club finding its feet in the last few months, the KCC team is now looking to experiment with new concept shows including improv and poetry nights. The team has also poured all the money they made from the shows back into the club to install a recording set up. “We can help with recording material now,” says Sourav. “We can also lend the space to record podcasts.” 

Sourav’s larger dream is to make KCC the go-to hangout spot for comedians. Regardless of them being on the lineup, comedians should come to the club and speak with other peers about their material, discuss their bits. He believes that’s the only way to develop a robust comedy scene. “Comedians and comedy thrives on feedback,” he says. “And we want to make that as accessible as possible.” 


Shantanu Sanzgiri


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