Rewind & Replay: 10 Exciting Firsts for Indian Standup Comedy in 2019

By Maanya Sachdeva 24 December 2019


Spread the love

The very last week of 2019 is here and we’re feeling nostalgic! Before we bid adieu to the year that was, here’s DeadAnt’s very own year-in-review. Let’s go: 

The beginning of newer and (much) longer formats 

Like comedian Daniel Fernandes’ Talk to Me: Ironman, a six-hour-long improvised stand-up show. Fernandes essentially raised the bar for crowd work shows with this marathon performance in one of Mumbai’s favourite stand-up venues, The Cuckoo Club. Talk to Me: Ironman was the big brother to Talk to Me, Fernandes’ crowdwork show (usually 90 minutes long), through which Fernandes powered through nonstop, though the audience was given a choice to leave after every two hours. That night, Fernandes created a record in India for the longest live comedy show at 6 hours 1 minute 14 seconds. Read all about how Fernandes prepped for this monster show here.

NH7 Weekender debuted a dedicated comedy stage

Coinciding with the festival’s 10th anniversary, NH7 Weekender got a dedicated all-day comedy zone that was packed with attendees throughout the three-day festival. The reason? An impressive line-up running from 29 November all the way through to 1 December, including performances by Kanan Gill, Sumukhi Suresh, Kenny Sebastian, Rahul Subramanian, Prashasti Singh, Zakir Khan and Varun Thakur. The festival also hosted three international comics—Blake Freeman, Michelle Brasier and Tom Cashman. Read the full story here.

A crowdfunded stand-up video? 

“Artists all over the world crowdfund their products and it is a normal thing. If you like what I do, you support me,” comedian Neelaksh Mathur said when we asked him about the Wishberry campaign he started in 2019 to crowd-fund his first-ever YouTube video. While Mathur, unfortunately, didn’t hit his target, he did get a conversation going—recording and releasing stand-up costs money—and was bravely willing to put himself and his art out there. Here’s to watching more of Neelaksh Mathur in 2020. Read about his first crowdfunding campaign here.

Sharing is caring

We have to talk about Aakash Mehta’s show concept, Aakash Mehta & Friends, and how it helped younger, newer comics in the industry put themselves out there. To help ease the financial and technical burdens of recording content for YouTube, Mehta came up with the idea of this multi-artist line-up, showcase format where he pays for the venue himself and the cost of editing and recording comedy videos is split by all the comedians performing at the venue. The result? Quality digital content for each of the performing artists, a larger audience and an industry that truly supports each other. Read more about Aakash Mehta’s novel approach to funding stand-up videos here

New comedy specials were announced, some with new formats

Netflix India partnered with eight Indian stand-up comics to release specials in 2020, betting big on comedy. Over the course of the next year, Vir Das, Kanan Gill, Amit Tandon, Kenny Sebastian, Kaneez Surka, Prashasti Singh, Niveditha Prakasham and Supriya Joshi will release their brand new specials on the streaming platform, giving you eight good reasons to renew your Netflix subscription. 

More space for laughter

In a bid to bolster the city’s comedy scene, two well-known comedians opened two different venues in Chennai. While The Half Boiled Inc, co-founded by Bhargav Ramakrishnan (Baggy) and Aravind SA, opened The Spotted Hyena, SOCO (South of Comedy) is the brainchild of actor-comedian Karthik Kumar. Kumar’s SOCO is betting big on the rise of regional Tamil comedy; in an interview to DeadAnt, he said, “The fact that Amazon Prime ventured into Comicstaan Tamil right after Comicstaan is a good thing.” Meanwhile, The Spotted Hyena was conceptualised as a community to encourage camaraderie in comedy. However, Kumar says that since both the venues are part of Evam Standup Tamasha, there are definite plans to collaborate and merge programming. 

A comedy show on the Delhi metro 

Delhi’s corporate crowd got some comedic relief on their commute back home when Amit Tandon boarded at Sultanpur metro station on and did a 30-minute show, all the way till the crowded Rajiv Chowk station. This is the first time there’s ever been live comedy in a metro train in the country, proof that India’s comedians are literally stepping out of their comfort zones. 

India’s comedy talent attracted international attention

Kanan Gill and Kenny Sebastian were both signed by massive international talent management agencies in 2019. While Gill will now be represented by California-based talent agency, United Talent Agency (UTA) for his international shows, Sebastian signed with the prestigious talent agency, William Morris Entertainment (WME). Three more names join this list very soon, we’re just not allowed to say who they are yet.

Pay-as-you-please!

Marking a shift from the norm of releasing specials on streaming platforms like Netflix or Prime Video, Daniel Fernandes released Shadows on YouTube making it available for everyone to watch. However, known for taking risks and doing things differently, Fernandes added that he was taking his special directly to viewers who, if they liked what they saw, could pay for viewing it. As much as they pleased! As of today, he has recovered his entire cost of production. Read our review of Shadows here

Indian standup got its own publication dedicated to tracking the country’s comedy scene

Yep, DeadAnt launched in March this year—an online publication and new media venture focussed on standup comedy in India. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest news, reviews and interviews, highlight unique new voices, show you what goes on behind-the-scenes, bring you events and more free passes; and continue to dissect and obsess over an evolving scene. Whether you’re a fan, an artist, or an industry insider, this is the only place you need to be. We’ve got comedy covered. See you in 2020!

Comicstaan Daniel Kanan Gill Kenny Sebastian