Even though standup comedy only arrived in India about a decade ago, it has quickly become one of the country’s top entertainment options. And that’s just when it comes to live shows; we love watching byte-sized comedy clips on YouTube pretty much all the time. However, Mumbai continues to be the hub of standup, with other metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad following closely. But hopefully not for much longer? In this brand new decade, regional comedy is on the rise. Case in point: LOLBAGH, India’s first Kannada youth comedy collective, a laughter phenomenon in Bengaluru.
While regional comics and collectives don’t get as much exposure or stage-time due to language barriers, they are, in their own way, staking claim over India’s burgeoning comedy scene.
Started in December 2016, LOLBAGH is named after Bengaluru’s landmark Lal Bagh (the famous botanical garden). “Myself (Anup Maiya), Karthik Pattar, Sudarshan Rangaprasad, Hampa Kumar and Pavan Venugopal were the initial members. I started Kannada open mics in Bengaluru in 2016. In two open mics that was done continuously over two months, I met all these guys and we formed a team called LOLBAGH,” Anup Maiya, the brain behind the collective tells us. In the years since, Seema Rao, Sunetra Pandit and Vinayak Kulkarni joined the team, and today they all share the same goal—to make the audience laugh.
The language of delivery for their comedy, both standup and improv, is Kannada. As one can imagine, however, this massively restricts them in terms of cities and venues. “We get to perform only in those cities where Kannadigas are present. You can definitely see a huge market difference between Hindi, English, Tamil and Kannada, where Kannada has the lowest footfall,” Maiya says. “Even then, we have performed in eight different cities of Karnataka and are planning an international tour for Kannadigas soon,” he adds.
In the short span of two years, LOLBAGH has achieved quite a bit. They have regular shows in Bengaluru, and often tour within the state of Karnataka. “Audience response has been awesome till now and doing comedy in a regional language has its own kick. We want to extend our forms to sketch, drama and many other forms as well,” Maiya tells DeadAnt.
The audience loves them for their regional slang. And for Maiya, their USP lies in four of his team members, who do four different Kannada accents— something the audience absolutely loves. When asked about how the regular comedy scene reacts to regional comedy, Maiya said, “General comedy scene doesn’t say much about regional comics. But we do get support from a few English comedians like Praveen Kumar, who recommends us whenever there is a requirement for a regional comedy show.”
But the one common factor that binds comedians across languages and cities is an audience that is easily offended. “Heckling happens many times, when we perform at pubs or colleges. Auditorium shows normally don’t have any heckling. Once, we were trying a joke on one of the local ministers and the audience asked us to mind our business. People are very sensitive about local politicians and actors.” Same-same.
All of the LOLBAGH comics have regular jobs which, Maiya says, poses a problem when it comes to weekday shows. And while they may not be in a position to quit their respective jobs just yet, they’re doing their best. Even with their restrictions, the collective manages to do four-five shows every month.
Today, LOLBAGH has a lot to think about as they work towards the growth of regional comedy. And you can help! If you, or anyone you know wants to perform with LOLBAGH, you can send your videos to firstname.lastname@example.org. If they see the talent, you’re on.