What is comedy? For some it is the witty remarks of Birbal in the Mughal Durbars, for others it is a cat chasing a mouse endlessly for 30 years on Cartoon Network. And for millions today, it’s a grown man dressed as a woman, dancing on national TV in ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’. But a much less appreciated and more tedious form of comedy is ‘standup comedy’ – essentially, one person standing and addressing a crowd, live.
Comedy may have been an integral part of our culture, but as far as contemporary Kolkata goes, stand-up comedy is a genre which has gained recognition only recently. We catch up with the man who has dared to tickle the funny bone of us Kolkatans. Be it on our culture, politics or smallest of habits, “the half German half Indian” Raouf Gangjee, founder of KALKUTTA KOMEDIANS, has a jest up his sleeve.
Q. How and when did Kalkutta Komedians begin?
A. Kolkata was introduced to standup comedy on 10th November 2012! That was the day I held an open mic session and announced a prize-money of 1 lakh rupees for the winner. Seeing a turnout of only 4 people, I well-understood how small the English stand-up comedy audience was in Kolkata. Nonetheless, we have come a long way from there and the audience is much more receptive towards stand-up comedy.
Q. How did you get into the world of comedy?
A. Right from school I used to prepare funny speeches and lines and try it on my friends and family. I moved on to write sections for newspapers too and one thing led to another to bring me where I am today. Comedy is one such field where a person will eventually land up if they like to do it, then comes the part of trying to monetize it. No person thinks, ‘Hey! I need to make some cash, let’s try being a professional comedian’.
Q. So where can one begin?
A. Anybody can learn how to do comedy. The easiest way is to watch, learn and then perform-it may be at small gatherings or big shows, but you must keep at it.
Q. What would be your advice to a budding stand-up comedian?
A. Don’t get into it, if you do, then
Don’t quit your job, if you’re hell bent, then
Just keep performing!
Q. How is stand-up comedy different from other genres of comedy?
A. Stand-up comedy is live with no possibilities of a retake and all the jokes in it are original, created by the comedian himself. The audience is crucial in a successful stand up show. In the sense, the people who have walked into the auditorium have come mentally prepared to have a fun time; the key is to be able to keep the cycle of laughs going by delivering a punch line every 10 – 15 seconds.
Q. How do comedians keep coming up with newer jokes?
A. There are majorly 2 ways in which a comedian adds material to his list, either they sit down with the intention of writing down jokes or they keep jotting down things every now and then through regular life events. Most comedians add only 10 to 30 minutes of stage-worthy material in an entire year.
Q. How is the gig audience in Kolkata and India in general?
A. The audience is not yet mature enough for stand-up comedy in Kolkata. Sadly, most still get cheap thrills out of bad language. Jokes on sex and politics sell most in India.
Catch the Kalkutta Komedians live in act at open mic sessions every Wednesday at Chai Break!
1st Wednesday of the month: Chai Break Chowringhee
2nd Wednesday of the month: Chai Break Ballygunge
3rd Wednesday of the month: Chai Break Alipore
4th Wednesday of the month: Chai Break Southern Avenue