Is Chennai turning into the next hub for Indian standup after Mumbai? We suspect so. With its third dedicated venue, which opened its doors to the public last weekend (12-15 September), it’s already undoubtedly the it-place for Tamil comedy.
Till about a month ago, CounterCulture Comedy Club was the only dedicated comedy address in Chennai. Then Aravind SA and Bhargava got together to launch The Spotted Hyena. And while that party was still going, there came SOCO, a space that seeks to highlight the scene in South India.
“I think the regional variant of standup is really picking up,” says actor-comedian Karthik Kumar, who’s also the co-founder of Evam Standup Tamasha and the man behind SOCO (South of Comedy). “The fact that Amazon Prime ventured into Comicstaan Tamil right after Comicstaan is a good thing. I think that’s been the reason why Chennai has probably taken the lead over something like Bangalore. Bangalore is still performing English.”
Both The Spotted Hyena and SOCO have the same fountainhead. “We’re all from Evan Standup Tamasha. So definitely plans are on to merge the programming,” explains Kumar. “Because geographically both these centres are absolutely different. Someone who goes to this venue [SOCO], cannot go to the other venue [Spotted Hyena],” he says, emphasising how, between these two latest venues, all of Chennai now has access to standup comedy.
Located at Bamboo Bar in Savera Hotel in Chennai’s Mylapore area, SOCO is celebrating its launch through the month of September. From musical comedy, open mics to an evening dedicated to Zakir Khan, SOCO has a stellar lineup in place, with a promise to continue to offer highly curated shows, especially for the regional players.
“So far, until about a year-and-a-half ago, the market was largely fuelled by English and Hindi [comedy]. That’s why an artist like Atul (Khatri) or Zakir (Khan) came here to draw a full-house. But now Chennai-based comics don’t necessarily have to do English because we don’t need to tour the Bombay-Delhi circuit anymore. We [directly] tour the international circuits where there are huge Tamil-speaking audiences. I think we have definitely surpassed Hindi for sure,” Kumar told DeadAnt.
SOCO is a cosy venue with the classic brick wall backdrop, an extendable stage and a hall that can seat up to 120 people. The venue’s particularly high ceiling gives it a technical edge over others as it offers theatrical lighting that matches the feel of a New York comedy club, and also serves as an intimate venue for theatre performances and improv comedy. SOCO is also equipped with a bar that serves finger food and drinks.
“Chennai hasn’t had much of a nightlife because bar licenses are not easily given by the state authorities. Only hotels could have a bar. But that has been removed over the last six months. A lot more permit rooms are coming up and so, there is a lot more opportunity for a nightlife,” he explains. “But even then, we haven’t experimented with our late-night slots. We still end the evening by 9.30 pm as of now. That will change very soon. If you give millennials great ambience and drinks and food, they will stay back to enjoy a show,” Kumar explains, positive about being able to offer patrons a wholesome comedy experience.
SOCO is will also host ‘Wall of Fame’, a monthly event where they invite comics who have dedicated their life to comedy and done substantial work to talk about the craft. The first of these is Vir Das. “We want to start talking comedy instead of just listening to a joke. We want audiences to become interested in the craft,” says Kumar. “They [comedians] are not just people who are clowns to make you laugh, there’s a lot that goes behind that laughter. So every month we are looking to felicitate one comedian who has done great work in the comedy space, and get them talking about the craft, which is something we’ve never had comedians do,” Kumar tells us.
Kumar and his team have spent seemingly endless days and nights conceiving SOCO. Here’s a sneak peek of the blood, sweat, and tears of laughter that went into it:
If you’re in Chennai, looking for comedy nights, you can also join the SOCO club which will bring you closer to the scene, let you in on show details before the world, and offer exciting promotional offers.
Check it out! Let us know what you think!
Promotional price for all tickets for the month of September is Rs. 99.
All details for upcoming shows on SOCO’s website.