Comicstaan: From politicians to godmen, privilege is the punchline in Amazon's new reality show

Shreya Paul

Jul,13 2018 09:59:19 IST

Tickling the funny bone is surely no joke, “it is serious business”, opens Abish Matthew on Amazon Prime Video India's upcoming reality show, Comicstaan.

If the first four episodes of Comicstaan were to be considered a preview of Indian stand-up comedy in future, then the upcoming days look promising for the country. Punching up to privilege, the show spares no one. Politicians, godmen and even the dead face the acidic humour that most contestants have to offer. From assault to silly toilet jokes, the gamut includes everything that a mind can think of (or not, in many cases).

The comedy reality show, which begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video India from 13 July, brings new stand-up comedians and hones their talents in seven different genres of comedy including anecdotal, topical, observational, sketch and improvisational.

Hosts Abish Mathew (left) and Sumukhi Suresh (right) help the judges shortlist 10 contestants.

Hosts Abish Mathew (left) and Sumukhi Suresh (right) help the judges shortlist 10 contestants.

The format of the show seems fair in retaining each contestant till they complete performing in all seven genres. The judges’ panel consisting of Tanmay Bhat, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Kenny Sebastian, Kanan Gill, Naveen Richard, Kaneez Surka and Sapan Verma turn mentor to the contestants for each episode based on the veterans’ expertise.

The first theme that contestants performed to, was anecdotal comedy. Biswa helmed the budding comedians to few biting performances, like that of Reuben Kaduskar, who spoke about children facing abuse at home. “When people started wondering how to ‘improve’ me, my father’s friend suggested isko maaro (hit him).” The routine went into a hilarious account of how Reuben's anger built each day to finally motivate him to take revenge on…wait for it… the cane. Though some judges felt his performance could have continued beyond the cliffhanger, his set was appreciated.

Prashasti Singh spoke about the millennial concept of casual sex and how it is the ‘sacrifice’ that many women pay in hopes of finally transforming the ever-so-misunderstood-brooding-guy to their lovable companion. “Tinder is too easy,” said Prashasti. "Love attains worth only when it comes with a serving of self-loathing and humiliation," she quipped to resounding applause.

The next theme was of topical comedy which had Tanmay as a mentor. Rahul Dua’s simple yet insightful take on not having any opinion on current issues, got loud laughs. The paradox which Dua created was a breath of fresh air especially since his set had confessions of a simple mind unperturbed by the meaningless ruckus around it.

“My friend told me to either make an opinion or go make bhindi (okra). I felt bad and started watching the news and realised that two back-to-back channels (at the very same time slot) had two contarasting opinions on the state of affairs in India. Do these hosts not talk to each other? Or are they exes?” said Dua. He drew intelligent analogies of primetime news hosts and their heightened volumes, leaving no one wondering who the people actually were. “Since everything around me lacked structure and meaning, I shifted to making bhindi instead,” he ended.

The hosts enjoy a light moment on Comicstaan

The hosts enjoy a light moment on Comicstaan

Sejal Bhat, a Kashmiri pundit, made poignant remarks on ‘fake feminism’, what she called “not feminism, but pyaar bhara sexism”. Her observations ran deep within the male psyche to bring up points which may have missed our observation. Bhat's analogies were so on-point, that one almost felt one has spoken to the characters, or worse, been one of them.  “These are the same people who rave about their wives cooking, taking care of the children, cleaning the house while also doing a full-time job. What are you so happy about?” she asked. “That just means you are a shitty husband.”

For the final theme, contestants had to perform a set on observational comedy with Sapan as their mentor.

Dua’s routine on his confusion regarding boundaries had the judges chuckling with empathy. “Sharing food becomes a major problem. I often question that unwelcome spoon coming closer to my plate. Why is he being so familiar? Did I call him ‘dude’ by mistake?” jokes Dua. “I have a gradient of greetings, depending on how comfortable I am with the other person. It starts with an awkward smile, to ‘hi’, then ‘hey’, side-hug, complete hug and finally complete hug with gandi gaalis.” The bit got the judges’ praise with Kaneez giving her first perfect 10.

Sejal selected a topic “close to her heart” and spoke about breasts, reminding viewers how society sets unrealistic beauty standards. “Humans are the only species that sexualise what is basically udders,” she said.

Her section on underwire lingerie was a sharp commentary on gender-based norms and how hard people try to ‘fit in’. She explained, “underwires are aluminium cords of death that are supposed to choke women up to keep them light-headed enough to not have a career. I need to swallow my food twice because of underwires - once from my throat, the other from my chest,” she added.

The episode ended with a strong performance from Shankar Chugani, who drew parallels of Hip-Hop to old Indian culture. His deft Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dance moves got a standing ovation from all judges as well as his fellow contestants.

The contestants had a no-holds-barred attitude throughout their four sets. Yogi Adityanath, to movie-making godmen; Rahul Gandhi to our current Prime Minister, all jokes were said with aplomb and most importantly, received with a sense of pride by judges. Based on the issues that contestants chose to speak about, it seems they want to consciously put out content that make people ruminate and go back home with a bittersweet taste of realisation. If instead you choose to remain ensconced in your protective shells, you can always become a butt of their jokes.

Comicstaan begins streaming from 13 July on on Amazon Prime Video India.

Updated Date: Jul 13, 2018 09:59 AM