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The Art of Stand Up Comedy

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

“Aise toh me boht sakt laund hu lekin yaha mein pighal gaya?”

I hope you recognize this well-known dialogue from our very own Zakir Khan, who is a well-known stand-up comedian.

The stand-up comedy scene in India is booming. There are more comedians than ever before, and they're performing to bigger and bigger audiences. But with this boom has come a new challenge: how to navigate the minefield of cancel culture.

The stand-up comedy scene in Odisha has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years, evolving from its humble beginnings to its current thriving state. As Satyabrat highlighted in our recent podcast discussion, the scope for stand-up comedy was rather limited a few years ago.

Comedians like Satyabrat initially embarked on their comedic journeys outside of Odisha due to the lack of adequate resources. The turning point arrived with the emergence of comedic talents like Abhishek Upmanyu and Nishant Tanwar, and the catalytic impact of initiatives like AIB, led by Tanmay Bhat.

These developments sparked a surge of interest in roasting culture and stand-up comedy across India, with significant contributions from icons such as Zakir Khan and his fellow artists. The year 2017-18 witnessed a surge in the establishment of comedy clubs in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, a trend mirrored in Odisha by people like Satyabrat and Debarchan, who laid the foundation for comedy clubs such as The Space and the Comedy Highway. Satyabrat recalls a time when four comedians came together to start a journey and today, they are a group of sixteen.

The two seasons of ‘Comicstaan’ also played a pivotal role in magnifying the comedy scene on the Indian entertainment canvas. The pre-COVID era marked a significant shift, as renowned artists who once hesitated to come to Odisha due to its low fan base, now find themselves drawn by a huge growing fan base and a surge in comedic fervor. A testament to this remarkable growth is exemplified by venues like The Space, where open mics have become a regular affair, attracting a lot of young, up-coming comedians.

The perception of comedy as a genuine career option has steadily gained traction, creating a sense of optimism and potential within the community. The trajectory of this growth is really promising, with the growth of new comedy clubs coming across Odisha, extending laughter beyond Bhubaneswar to various corners of the state. The evolution of Odisha’s stand-up comedy scene has come a long way. From humble beginnings to the establishment of a dedicated comedy audience.

In India, cancel culture is often used to silence comedians who make jokes about sensitive topics. This can be anything from politics to religion to social issues. And it's not just comedians who are targeted. Anyone who expresses an opinion that is deemed to be offensive can be canceled.

This has created a climate of fear among comedians, who are now hesitant to make jokes that might get them in trouble. As a result, the stand-up comedy scene in India is becoming more and more sanitized.

But there are still some comedians who are willing to take risks. These comedians are often the most popular because they're able to connect with audiences on a deeper level. They're not afraid to talk about the things that people are afraid to talk about.

So, if you're looking for a good laugh, I recommend checking out a stand-up comedy show in India. Just be prepared to be offended.

Here are some Hindi lines that you might hear at a stand-up comedy show in India:

"Yeh cancel culture ka chakkar bahut kharab hai. Ab koi bhi kuch bhi nahi bol sakta." (This cancel culture cycle is very bad. Now no one can say anything.)

This line might be said by a comedian who has been canceled for making a joke that was deemed to be offensive. They might be expressing their frustration with the cancel culture phenomenon and how it is stifling free speech.

For example, the comedian Kunal Kamra was canceled in 2018 for making a joke about the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He was accused of being disrespectful and insensitive, and he was banned from several comedy clubs and platforms.

"Main toh bas hasane ke liye aaya hoon, offend hone ke liye nahi." (I came here to laugh, not to be offended.)

This line might be said by a comedian who is tired of being canceled for their jokes. They might be saying that they just want to make people laugh, and they don't want to have to worry about offending anyone.

For example, the comedian Vir Das was canceled in 2021 for a comedy show in which he made jokes about India. He was accused of being anti-national and insulting the country, and he was forced to apologize.

"Kuch bhi bolo, bas Twitter pe mat jaana." (Say whatever you want, just don't go on Twitter.)

This line might be said by a comedian who is aware of the cancel culture phenomenon on Twitter. They might be warning other comedians to be careful about what they say on Twitter, as they could easily be canceled for making a joke that is deemed to be offensive.

For example, the comedian Tanmay Bhat was canceled in 2016 for a tweet in which he made fun of a contestant on the Indian reality show, Bigg Boss. He was accused of being insensitive and disrespectful, and he was forced to apologize.

Satyabrat Mohapatra is a great stand up comedian who emerged from our very own land of Odisha. We invited him to our very own podcast The Astrix Show, where he totally destroyed us(in a good manner).

Watch him destroy 3 of us in such a ridiculous way, you will surely get aroused (in a funny way)

Satyabrat: “Ye 4 jan ko message karta hai jin mese 2 ko ye message karta hai”

This line was so relatable, you surely should check it out!

Just go and come back next month! See ya and stay tuned!

In our insightful podcast conversation, Satyabrat covered various topics. We chatted about the financial aspect of stand-up shows and how it affects them. With a dedicated stand-up venue in Bhubaneswar now, we discussed how famous comedians coming here for shows boost the club's economy. People are also starting to appreciate the role of stand-up comics, making it crucial to consider the money side. In a city with two or three comedy clubs, it's easier to grow since shows happen often.
We also touched on the growth journey. Satyabrat stressed the importance of young artists participating in open mics. These events help them learn and find their own style in comedy. He mentioned that in the beginning, many comedians face failures, but with consistent effort and improvement, they become better. We also talked about how creative freedom matters for artists. Our country tends to struggle with taking dark jokes lightly. People often get upset over religious or ideological jokes. In contrast, foreign countries usually see jokes just as jokes, without going deeper. We agreed that as a society, we need to learn to accept things as they are and avoid jumping to conclusions or forming strong opinions.
In conclusion, our podcast with Satyabrat explored diverse aspects of stand-up comedy, from finances to growth. It's clear that stand-up is evolving, with more recognition and financial viability. Young comedians have a path to growth through open mics, and there's a need for a more open-minded approach to comedy in our society. And at the end, we were left pondering the potential for comedy to fill gaps and gain more acceptance in our ever-changing world.

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