LOL- Hasse Toh Phasse review: Amazon Prime Video show is the epitome of forced laughter, pity applause and an easy pay day
The problem with LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse is that it's barely funny. Once you scratch beyond the 'decent idea', you realise how hollow the premise is.
It's hard enough trying to make people laugh, and when one seeks to build a reality show around it, the stakes are even higher. Amazon Prime's LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse, the Indian iteration of Last One Laughing, a reality show where a bunch of 'funny' people are locked into a house for a predetermined period tasked with not laughing, is a misfire on many levels. The show has an interesting bunch of contestants ranging from established comics like Cyrus Broacha, Aadar Malik, Aditi Mittal to sketch comedians like Suresh Menon, Sunil Grover, Gaurav Gera, along with influencers like Kusha Kapila, Mallika Dua, Ankita Shrivastav and upstart comedian, Aakash Gupta. It's an intriguing mix of styles of humour, and therefore once we find out the rules of the show, one might even hold their breath for what awaits us. But it only takes the first 10 minutes to give us a peek into how the show is going to turn out.
Hosts Boman Irani and Arshad Warsi (who apparently loves the sound of his own laugh) induct the 10 contestants with the rules of the house. They need to survive six hours in the Bigg Boss-like setting, and even the slightest hints of a grin/smile will contribute towards their elimination. All contestants are given two chances, a first will be greeted with a yellow card (a warning), and the second with a 'red card' (meaning elimination). They cannot be passive to the whole exercise, any passivity will result in a warning and consequently even an elimination. Also, participants need to constantly crack jokes. If any contestant is found to not being funny enough to elicit a laugh out of their fellow contestants, they might also face a warning and an elimination. The house is armed with 'props' ranging from fake teeth, skeletons, bras, and over-the-top costumes, things you would usually associate with any improv show. All contestants will be summoned for a special 'skit' performance at some point, and that will be a time when the spotlight is fully on one contestant and their attempts to break their fellow competitors.
The problem with LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse is that it's barely funny. As soon as the countdown begins, we see Gaurav Gera quickly donning a bra, to which Broacha and Menon predictably respond with "You're my bra". It sets the tone for the tired humour that we're going to be subjected to. It's particularly disappointing from the likes of Gera and Grover, who have built their comedy careers playing characters like Chhutki and Gutthi respectively. Even though the impressions might be considered low-hanging fruits of men cross-dressing as women, both Gera and Grover have shown an ability to think on their feet, challenging audiences' expectations. Unfortunately, neither of them turns out to be a gifted improviser in the show. Broacha known for landing deadpan jokes through some of the most topical things in a news cycle, seems guarded and focused on not laughing himself, which can never be a good thing for any show. Kapila and Dua keep switching between their loud Instagram avatars, trying to draw a laugh out of their rival contestants. It's a miracle that anyone's eliminated at all, considering how little of what is said is even worthy of a dismissive chuckle. One might be tempted to theorise that the ones getting eliminated are because of their boredom, rather than the 'comedy' in the house.
There's an interesting moment during the early part of the show, where everyone clueless about how to go about the show and trying to protect themselves with a distraction, begin to mimic an ambulance siren. At this point, LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse begins to look closer to the California Prison Experiment, and one begins to see its potential to be an anti-reality show. A show that examines the hierarchy of power amongst its contestants, one where contestants unravel fully (minus a script) while getting their rivals to laugh. However, the makers of LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse's can't hide their feeble, inoffensive intentions behind the show. In this one, everyone is polite and kind to one another. Where eliminated contestants sit inside a green room and politely laugh and clap at the (supposed) jokes of the competitors still in the game. No one has anything bad to say to one another, the newbies address the veterans with a suffix of 'sir'. Irani and Warsi sit around in their own chamber passing commentary on what the contestants are doing, with Irani trying to slip in some age-appropriate Dad jokes, while Warsi is so visibly impressed with his jokes that he ruins them by laughing even before delivering the punchline. Every single time.
In the end, LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse seems like an easy pay-day for a majority of those participating. From the looks of it, it's a single-day shoot, where everyone congregated with the hope of taking home the cash prize of Rs 25 lakhs for the winner. Even otherwise, one would imagine that participants got handsomely compensated for a single day's work. So, everyone showed up and endured one of the most singularly unfunny days of their comedy careers and went through the beats with as much professionalism as they could summon. Amazon Prime Video's non-fiction comedy content has seen some interesting experiments with Comicstaan, One Mic Stand (where the likes of Shashi Tharoor tried their hand at stand-up comedy), but the gimmickry has now become a pattern. Once you scratch beyond the 'decent idea', one realises how hollow the premise is. While one does realise the pressure of having to feed the machine of 'fresh content', maybe introspecting and developing the shows more thoroughly should be the way forward. If LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse is any indication of the strategy moving forward, then the day isn't far when Amazon Prime itself becomes the punchline.
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