Comicstaan season 2 review: Amazon Prime show promotes safe jokes and insipid deliveries
While Comicstaan's first season was thought-provoking and new, the second instalment seems lacklustre at best
Comicstaan season 2 was arguably the most anticipated and widely publicised event in the Indian stand-up circuit after the unfortunate deluge of #MeToo allegations that wrought the industry in 2018. Amazon Prime Video's reality show garnered considerable traffic in its first season with Delhi-based contestant Nishant Suri emerging the winner and gave audiences few absolute favourites in their motley combination of oddball contestants like Prashasti Singh and Rahul Dua.
The second season, therefore, had big shoes to fill in and the stakes were understandably high. However, Amazon's second instalment of the comedy reality show, which premiered on 12 July, seems lacklustre at best. The streaming service released the first three episodes which required ten contestants to battle it out in the rounds of observational comedy (mentored by season 1 veteran Kanan Gill), anecdotal (helmed by new entrant Zakir Khan) and improv comedy (guided by Kaneez Surka).
With marginal exceptions, the contestants have been unable to make a dent in the otherwise hackneyed canvas that their content deals with. While season 1 openly challenged then-prevalent societal and political fallacies, the new episodes cite innocuous, seldom funny, forgettable sets. Worthy of mention among the lot are Samay Raina, Shreeja Chaturvedi, Joel D'Souza and Aakash Gupta.
Comicstaan season 2's first episode dealt with observational bits, which would then be scored by both the audience members and judges. Shreeja introduced the novel concept of Indian waste management systems and how the lids to dustbins are often more dangerous to our health as compared to the contents inside. Raina's set about AIDS advertisements in India and how misleading they tend to be, drew genuine laughter from both audience members and the judges. But even while dealing with such topics, the contestants seemed to tread within the safe zone.
The second episode shed light on Zakir's mentoring as the sakt launda trained the ten contestants to come up stories which are bizarre yet believable. Though Raina's performance topped the points table, Joel's stand-up section about his local train adventures in Mumbai was probably the best. His awkward delivery and stage presence added to often-liked 'goofiness' that many comedians cash in on while performing. Shreeja's 'unpredictable' crush saga on Indian ace boxer Vijender Singh was also appreciated by the newly appointed judge and veteran comedian Neeti Palta, Sumukhi Suresh, and season 1's Kenny Sebastian.
Kaneez Surka's episode on improv played out on a similar note as the previous two predecessors, with contestants presenting interesting scenarios which brought a smile to faces but could hardly urge people to introspect or think.
The makers seem to have trodden uncontroversial paths with age-old formulae of sure-shot laughs while dealing with the contestants' deliveries. Devanshi Shah, who was touted as the best writer among the contestants, may stand as a good example of this anomaly. Shah, in her sets, deals with rich material, ranging from self-esteem issues to tricky morals propounded by Aesop's Fables stories. But her deliveries lack the required time management (for appropriate pauses) and expressions which one could expect from a brand like Comicstaan.
That is not to say that the judges have fallen short this time around. Zakir's passionate inputs during rehearsals for his episode were endearing and hopeful. But the overall grooming of these young comics is yet to happen in the show. Sections of several sets run like one-dimensional monologues, which fail to create any impact. Judges' reactions for many performances thus come across as (understandably) bored and forced.
The timing for the second season seemed perfect in terms of salvaging the status of stand-up comedy in India. The makers were cautious too. Female representation was increased (with new additions like Palta and host Urooj Ashfaq), both male and female judges received equal pay as well. But these changes are probably the only plus points about the new season (at least till now). While the episodes look the way they ought to and the contestants speak the way they should, the whole set-up feels too manicured.
Risqué yet intelligent potshots at the Indian polity, wry jokes about societal injustices or even a call-back to Indian stand-up's pathetically sexist inner workings could have made for delicious, thought-provoking content, but none of it is dealt with. Instead, viewers are served with insipid titbits on high school stories and drunken house parties.
Comicstaan season 2 is presently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
(All images from Amazon Prime Video)
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