Throughout 2020 and 2021, one of the most common refrains we heard from comedians was that the pandemic had badly hit the supply of fresh talent to the scene. The established names carried on with their Zoom shows and social media hijinks, and were quick to return to the stage with big tours this year. But they also keenly felt the lack of two years of open mic experience, and worried that the pipeline of talent may have developed some holes.
Thankfully, live comedy returned with a bang in 2022. Even if it’s not fully at pre-pandemic levels yet, comedy stages around the country are once again playing host to a new generation of comedians trying to make their mark on India’s body-comedic. And so we decided to ask some of our favourite comics to pick their favourite up-and-coming comics for this list of potential Next Big Things. Read on to find which young comedians are ready to rip it up in 2023, complete with their individual co-signs.
PS: Apparently NBT nominees are a little like Lays, (almost) nobody can stop at just one. Either that or Indian comedians are just addicted to multiple choice answers.
SUMUKHI SURESH – SHREYA PRIYAM ROY
I think Shreya Priyam is very interesting. I really liked her in Comicstaan and I think she’s also someone who can do standup, who wants to act, who can do sketches. I really like when there are comics who want to do multiple things or have the potential to.
MANAN DESAI – SUNIL REGAR, LAKSH NAYAK, NISARG AVASHIA
[My pick for] upcoming, promising talent is Sunil Regar from Gujarat. At the moment he’s just touring Gujarat and doing shows internally, I don’t think he’s going outside. He might’ve performed at the Habitat a couple of times. Nonetheless, he is amazing. He has acute observations and his premises are bizarre. His punchlines are back-to-back, he has a very good, tight set for a comedian who hasn’t been doing comedy for a long time.
He can really be a breakthrough artist if he does more shows and uploads more videos. Also he has a very strong suit of a very desi accent kind of an approach which makes him more likeable, because the way he delivers his mateiral is very much like the guy-next-door.
Apart from the Comedy Factory guys, there are two or three comedians you have to look out for [in Gujarat] and Regar is my personal favourite at the moment. Laksh Nayak and Nisarg Avashia are also worth checking out.
NEETI PALTA – AASHISH SOLANKI AND GURLEEN PANNU
It might be a biased point of view but I love Gurleen Pannu and I love Aashish Solanki. Aashish always has a great opening line no matter what situation you put him in. I was recently at the Chandigarh Comedy Festival and Gurleen being a Chandigarh girl is very, very popular there. So, she goes up on stage, kills, and then Aashish has to follow her. He walks on and then addresses the audience by saying, “jaanke thodi haraya tha usko maine! (I didn’t beat her on purpose!)”
What a brilliant opening line! So yeah, Aashish’s comedy is very funny, and very thorough. Gurleen’s comedy is like a breath of fresh air. She visualises the hell out of everything. She makes the simplest of situations so funny through just the way she presents it and makes you visualise it. You know it’s hyperbole, you know that it’s exaggerated but somehow you’re able to imagine what she’s saying and that’s what makes it even more hilarious. She’s a nice, new, fresh, unique voice and I really, really wish and pray that these two shine on, like big time.
KARTHIK KUMAR – FATIMA AYESHA
I think in the last year I’ve been incredibly impressed and have been keenly watching out for the work of Fatima Ayesha. I’ve seen her perform live Chennai once and I was very keen that she perform one of her shows at SoCo. I haven’t been able to do that yet, but I’ve seen the hustle that she has, the hunger that she has, the route to creating her first hour, which I think is called Koi Nahi Dekhega. The kind of social media game that she believes she needs to play, the belief in putting a tour together to lead up to forming her special, all of these things I’m extremely impressed by and feel very, very positive and reassured that, “Ohh wow, that’s a comic who is doing so well” and to know that she’s a woman is even more just… it’s the final draft of wind that creates higher levitation. So I feel very, very good about Fatima Ayesha, I hope she does well. I’m betting on her.
ADITI MITTAL – KAJOL SRINIVASAN
I don’t know any new people doing it, but someone who had a breakout year in my personal opinion is Kajol Srinivasan, where suddenly she was everywhere and she was killing it on twitter. So hardcore and so consistently funny. It was quite friggin’ cool. So yeah, I honestly, like, find her hilarious and quite brilliant, not gonna lie.
NAVIN NORONHA – URJITA WANI AND GILHARII
Urjita Wani is great. Her writing is sharp and she gets comfier each time I see her perform. It’s about eventually letting go on stage and I feel she’s mastering it this year. And there’s also Gilharii. Yeah, that’s his stage name. He’s a bi comic who I came across through queer mics. Outrageous performer. And young and goofy!
AMIT TANDON – SWATI SACHDEVA
This year’s breakout comedian, according to me, is Swati Sachdeva. Loved her video that came out. Her voice was great. Even when she’s talking about her coming out, her bisexuality, there’s nothing being said to shock people. It’s more like a very honest, unashamed admission of what she’s been through, all the while keeping it very funny and being proud of it. So, for me, she was the best this year. Somebody who is not trying too hard on stage, still staying herself, being that Dilli ki ladki.
MANDAR BHIDE – ADITYA GUNDETI, ANDY REGHU, SIDHHARTHA SHETTY AND VARUN NAIR
Varun Nair is a natural and standup comes very naturally to him. He’s recently gotten pretty popular on social media as well. So I think Varun Nair is one comedian to look out for. But I think all of the names I’ve mentioned have their strengths.
Siddharth Shetty is a great performer. Varun Nair makes great observations. Aditya actually writes tonn
es and tonn es of material. So what he lacks in quality, let’s say, he makes up for in quantity.
Andy has been around for much longer than the others. I think Andy started in 2012, he’s just not released as many videos for reasons best known to him, but I think he’s very funny. I look forward to performing at open mics that Andy is hosting. Because Andy is the kind of person who will carry a set of costumes for an open mic. So he’s got a lot of different characters, sometimes he’ll put on a wig and come on stage. Those are things that I think only Andy can pull off.
PRAVEEN KUMAR – SELVA SUNDARESAN, RISHA RAJAS, SUNDAR AND GUNA KANNAN
Since I’m in the Tamil comedy scene I can talk about upcoming Tamil comedians that are very promising. There are 5 of them invariably that come to mind. They’re in a group, okay? So, they’re Risha, Guna, Sundar, Prakash and Selva. The reason why I’m bringing them up is that they’re very, very hardworking. See, for me anybody who is trying standup is good, okay? First of all, instead of just sitting at home thinking, “I should’ve done it”, people who go and try standup, by doing that itself they cross 50% of the line. So the remaining 50% is about hard work and commitment and dedication. So I feel these guys are terrific.
I would call them the Corona batch, because they started during the COVID-19 times, they started their open mics on online platforms and then slowly moved on to the live open mics and they’ve been very, very consistent in attending all of them. If you go to any open mic in any part of the city, they’ll be there. If anybody announces a show, they’ll be the first people to message, “Can I open for you?” That fire in the belly is there for them. Talent? Everybody has talent. But the fire in the belly and the hard work, the determination to do a good job, the determination to reach out to more people, the regularity with which they put out content also, like reels they have, they put out jokes you know? They’re consistently trying to be visible to others. So, I think these are the major reasons why I feel they will definitely have a very, very bright future.
JASPREET SINGH – AASHISH SOLANKI
One of my favourite comics in the scene—mostly the Delhi scene because that’s where I’ve seen the most comedy— is Aashish Solanki. He’s famous now, of course. I think his probability of giving a good show is much much higher than a lot of comics in the same year or the same layer. Very likeable on stage, not as a charming-personality-likeable, but a good-boy-likeable. And I love how he picks very basic premises and goes so deep into them.
His voice is pretty unique in the sense that he does not dumb himself down. He has good references. He has good analogies. Jo ki mereko lagta hai kaafi comics miss karte hai. Kuch cheezein hoti hai which you tell and they’re funny but uske baad comedian ka kaam start hota hai. Is there anything—good wordplay, good analogies—that you can put in there? Uska woh bahut sahi lagta hai mereko. And he’s very consistent on stage. Hardworking, very hardworking.
PRASHASTI SINGH – VIDUSHI SWAROOP
I think there is a lot of sting and power in her content and she has some great stage presence. So she’s my pick for the NBT.
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