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The MICF Blueprint: Kashyap Swaroop On How To Put Together A DIY International Tour

By Shantanu Sanzgiri 13 June 2024 5 mins read

Comedian Kashyap Swaroop put together a DIY run at the prestigious Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. He tells us all about the process and the highlights of his tour.

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Performing at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a dream for every comedian. The second largest international comedy festival in terms of attendance, comedians yearn to showcase their material on the international stage and explore a robust comedy scene. And the best part? Any comedian can register to perform at the festival for a cost. But it’s all easier said than done. Or is it?

Mumbai-based comedian Kashyap Swaroop listed nine hour-long shows at the prestigious festival this year and he did it all by himself. No sponsors, no talent management agencies to back him up. The comedian also made some inroads and got tons of spots on other lineup shows at the festival. How did he do it? Read on to find out.

What was your MICF experience like?

So, this was actually the second time I visited the festival. The first time I went was more of a personal engagement clubbed with a business trip. But I did make it a point to hit the mics in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. I coincidentally happened to be there during the festival. So I also tried and watched as much live standup as possible. I saw Daniel Sloss, Dylan Moran and a bunch of other comics. But watching these shows is quite expensive. While I was there, I found out that if I register myself as an artist in the festival, most of these shows are free to watch because all the performers get an artist pass. So, instead of spending INR 20-25k on just watching the acts, I thought I’ll spend a similar amount of money to perform as well as catch all kinds of comedians.

How was it different this time around?

This time the intention was to watch standup and perform as well. I had listed around nine hour-long shows. I booked a venue alongside another comedian, Aaqib Merchant. He’s been in Australia for around 3-4 years. We split the stage time and the costs of booking the venue between the two of us, so that made it monetarily feasible.

What was the turnout like for your shows?

The turnout was decent. During the festival, Melbourne is like a wonderland for comedians. There is so much to see and so much stage time for travelling comics! And the crowd there loves diversity. They love variety shows, they’re looking for different cultural perspectives. So we always had an audience at our shows. Eventually I was doing maybe 3-4 spots each night. I was burnt out by the end of most nights but I was extremely satisfied. I would say going to Melbourne and Edinburgh should be on every comedian’s list.

What’s the blueprint for putting up a show there? How did you market yourself?

First, you have to register yourself as an artist at the festival which costs some amount of money. Roughly INR 15,000. And then you have to look for venues to list your shows and book those. They have an hourly rental system, so you gauge how many tickets you can sell and book a place accordingly. And then you start promoting your shows in whatever way possible. We did a bunch of flyering before every show for at least an hour. And then there’s the online marketing—ads, putting out sketches. Anything that will get you visibility online. Neither Aaqib nor I have a native audience there. But people over there are big on consuming art, they don’t care who is on the bill. So we always had people to perform for.

How can upcoming comedians make sure it’s financially viable to perform there?

I think one of the key things for comedians to keep in mind is to hit up the scene. Stick around after a performance to talk with the local comedians and promoters. There are so many shows happening during the festival, there are always paid spots that you can be offered for hosting or being on the lineup. There are also shows that pay you regardless of you hosting or being a headliner that pay pretty well. It’s like AUD $10 for a minute. That’s why I would say make sure you have at least 15 minutes of universally relatable English material. Beyond that, it’s all about planning in advance. Book your flights and stay to save money. If you have a friend or relative there, crash at their place to save on rent.

How did you manage to secure these paid spots outside of your own shows?

There are always scouts, reviewers and local comedians at these gigs. If they enjoy your set, they come up to you after the show and offer you some stage time. I was also lucky that Aaqib knew some people in the scene. He hooked me up with a lot of these gigs and if you perform well, they keep booking you. Before I left for the festival, I had managed to secure like 8-10 spots outside of my own shows. But by the time I was done with the festival, I had gone up on stage roughly 60-65 times out of which 50 percent were paid gigs. So, we kind of broke even on the money that was spent to book the venue. I would say I spent INR 60-70k on the flights but the trade-off was getting almost 700 minutes of stage time. That’s a great bargain if you plan it well.

Would you say there’s a market for Hindi-speaking comedy at MICF?

Oh, definitely. You can list shows in any language, actually. Almost every night I was performing, there was a Hindi-lineup show happening elsewhere. And these shows also drew a significant crowd. There are lots of people from India, Pakistan and Bangaldesh there looking to consume Hindi standup. They are extremely nostalgic about their home countries and are always looking to see someone talk about it on stage. And especially when you’re flyering, you can have a very direct conversation with them. So yes, I totally believe that there’s a market for Hindi comedy at MICF.

What were you key takeaways from this run at MICF?

Firstly, it was the satisfaction of having performed at a reputed international comedy festival. You also feel like your brain is expanding in terms of the craft and the topics you can talk about. This year, I think close to 1,400 comedians performed at MICF. In that kind of an environment, around so many different artists, you end up writing new material, find new observations and make connections. I think it’s totally worth every comedian’s time to try and enlist at MICF.

What are your future plans?

So, currently the plan is to go back to Melbourne to do a split one-hour show with another comedian provided my finances are sorted. I would also like to explore the possibility of doing some themed shows. As of now I’m trying to convince some of my friends in Mumbai to come with me so we could do put up more shows than I did this year. Because from what I saw, there’s definitely an appetite for all kinds of comedy there. Secondly, I want to do a similar run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Basically go with a friend and split the costs. And the end goal is to perform my solos at both these festivals by 2026. That’s the plan right now. Let’s see how it goes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Shantanu Sanzgiri

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