The circuit in Chennai has some of the friendliest faces you’ll find in Indian comedy. So when two of the most popular names come together to announce “Chennai’s funnest comedy club”, we believe them.
Opening this weekend at PhoenixCity in partnership with Club Crest is Aravind SA and Bhargav (Baggy) Ramakrishna’s spanking new comedy venue, The Spotted Hyena. With an expandable seating area (80-150 seats) and a screen for those who might want to use one, “The idea is to have experimental, concept-based shows as well, for which we may not need to open the whole place up,” explains SA Aravind. “At the end of the day, it comes down to the experience. If the audience goes back saying they felt special, that they were part of a special experience, then that’s as good as total capacity.”
It’s their first big experiment with the duo’s newly formed company, HalfBoiled Inc. “Baggy is my best friend and in fact he’s the one person who I owe almost every single bit of my body of work, or success, or however you want to perceive it. He’s been that important for me personally and professionally,” says Aravind. “He’s also always had that trait in him that he likes to see things in advance, his vision is very wide with respect to seeing what is the next thing we should do instead of only focussing on what’s happening now.”
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the experience. If the audience goes back saying they felt special, that they were part of a special experience, then that’s as good as total capacity.”
Having been in the business for a decade now, they’re confident about what their combined learnings will bring to the company. While Aravind brings in experience from live shows, OTT platforms, and managing individual brand and business opportunities, Baggy’s interest lies in incubating talent, creating an ecosystem, and enabling collaborations. “Those are the biggest challenges in a place like Chennai,” says SA. “The talent is there but it’s dispersed… so how do you get them focussed and streamlined in a way that the output is more and there is more incentive to collaborate? For that we felt that we should start expanding horizontally as well.” One way to do that was a modern comedy club, “similar to clubs you have in Mumbai” which the duo believes was severely lacking in the city.
“No point in being extremely ambitious in a place like Chennai,” SA laughs. “It’s going to take a lot to encourage people to come out and watch.” So for now, you can catch a show on Fridays (local talent and Tamil standup), Saturdays (standup), and Sundays (experimental formats). “In Chennai, if you open a club and don’t do Tamil standup, forget about the others, I’ll only be pissed off… I’ll be the first to say what the hell is going on here?!” he exclaims.
It’s also a good space for South Indian comics who may not want to shoot in Mumbai because they have bigger audiences for their material in the south, but haven’t had a good enough space for their tapings thus far. “Now they can shoot here and easily fill up 160 seats,” SA says.
“One of the things I think is extremely understated is that Chennai is actually a very compatible crowd for English comedy… simply because they don’t appreciate Hindi very much,” he laughs. “So our venue is actually a great place for those who want to get out of their Mumbai comfort zone and still not go to some obscure place.”
Opening weekend is an ongoing four-day extravaganza—Chennai’s biggest comedy festival yet—with over 35 artists, both local and visiting, across 16 live shows at The Spotted Hyena. Of course you’ll see Baggy and SA, but also on the weekend’s lineup are Sorabh Pant, Alex, Kenny Sebastian, Naveen Richard, Rahul Subramanian, Urooj Ashfaq, across standup, crowd work, improv, on-the-spot comedy, Tight-10s, and comedy debates.
Tickets start at Rs. 499. Get yours here.
Days operational: Fri-Sun
Brick wall: Pfft…
Alcohol: For the opening weekend, yes. But it’s on trial, as the bar is outside the performance space, so they want to be sure first that it doesn’t come in the way of the artist or their performance. If it works out, it might be a regular feature as, in SA words, “Chennai is just crying out loud for a place where they can drink and laugh!”