This episode is awful, and Biswa Kalyan Rath’s talents can do little to salvage it. He dons the mentor hat for the sixth episode of Comicstaan, which has a “comedy of terrors” theme. Or: extempore. The contestants get a one-sentence premise on the spot, which is followed by a handful of slides on the screen showing photo prompts during their time. While the format of this episode in the first season allowed the contestants more wiggle room to use the prompts as part of their standup act, the emphasis here is on playing a character speaking to an imagined strawman. It’s basically little more than a grand improv exercise, a one-person skit in which the contestants have to weave the visuals into the story they’re acting out.
Aakash Gupta, who’s leading the scoreboards after six episodes (in case anyone’s keeping count), comes out on top here, for a conversation between him, a school principal, trying to convince a parent that their kid should be homeschooled. Another high-scorer is Supriya Joshi, who plays the role of an obnoxious guy named Siddhanth Chlamydia (?) doing an end-of-school presentation to his college mates. Devanshi Shah, to compensate for her visible stage fright here, adopts an arrogant persona, dropping plenty of mother-f-bombs at the crowd while convincing them of the virtues of charging for oxygen.
The fact that all the comics are, thanks to the format, forced into playing characters rather than performing to the audience is a letdown. Their own inner workings, their wit in the face of pressure, rarely comes to the surface, and they’re unable to present their true comic personalities here. Nevertheless, there are a couple of exceptions; comedians who try to play around with the format. Sumit Sourav tries a meta-presentation, dropping the premise given to him and using it as a way of explaining the craft of comedy itself—admittedly, the ambition doesn’t quite match the execution. Shreeja Chaturvedi uses her slow vocal delivery to lace her set about Tinder strategies with plenty of standup punchlines, while Samay Raina does an admirable job creating an imaginary story about himself as an evil person no one should mess with.
There’s a moment of absurd hilarity during Joel D’Souza’s set. He is, well, tanking, and a particularly lukewarm section is met with silence. D’Souza has a style of delivery where he’s perpetually indignant and, during that period of uncomfortable silence, he yells at the crowd. “Guys… haso!” And everyone bursts into laughs. Then there’s Rath who, during his closing set in which he’s asking his boss for leave, somehow kidnaps his boss’s child, feeds it pasta, and then adopts it.
- This entire “comedy of terrors” format needs to go. Going a step further: while it wouldn’t be right to judge Comicstaan on what it isn’t and doesn’t claim to be, I can safely say I’d be much more interested in a show which lets the comedians do standup sets each week—without these unnecessary gimmicks—and tracking their real-time growth and development under the guidance of the established comics who form the judging panel.
Write This Down
Given the format, which requires contestants to showcase their presence (or absence) of mind and quick wit, there’s not a lot of direct knowledge that can be imparted within a week. As Rath himself says, “There’s nothing to mentor here.” After Shreeja Chaturvedi’s set, he started mentoring her—poorly—and eventually gave up and told her to do as she liked. Even the judges, on more than one occasion, take on an “it is what it is” tone in reference to the format.
Defending Joel D’Souza’s set, Rath goes after the audience, telling them to stick to the scoring format after they give him a middling score. Slumped in his chair, he addresses them after the set, “Now audience, whatever you’ve scored him, that becomes your gold standard. Now you score everybody else according to this. Don’t, now, go emotionally here and there, OK? You want to judge? This is fucking tough!”
- Perhaps the only pro-tip
worth noting from this episode: “Don’t treat [the presentation] as a joke. If
you treat it like a joke, then obviously it’ll get some laughs. But if you
treat it seriously, it can get way more laughs.”
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