Mr Family Man: Praveen Kumar's comedy show is uncompelling, except for a short burst of multilingual wordplay

With a funny punchline here and a smart pun there, Mr. Family Man isn’t entirely unwatchable.

Ranjani Krishnakumar May 19, 2020 09:53:33 IST
Mr Family Man: Praveen Kumar's comedy show is uncompelling, except for a short burst of multilingual wordplay

Serial Chiller is Ranjani Krishnakumar’s monthly column about all things Tamil television. Read more from the series here.

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Praveen Kumar, whose Tamil stand-up comedy show titled Mr Family Man dropped on Amazon Prime last Friday, begins with his central argument: That a family man is an unsung superhero. He promises to demonstrate, through personal experience, why a he thinks so. Except, he doesn’t.

He almost instantly abandons this promise, and jumps to self-deprecation, which seems to be his style of humour. He makes a few jokes about his own appearance — baldness, spectacles, belly and the like. These are almost at odds with the superhero premise. If he were building the underdog character who would soon come of age, it would not work.

Mr Family Man Praveen Kumars comedy show is uncompelling except for a short burst of multilingual wordplay

A still from Praveen Kumar's Tamil stand-up special, Mr Family Man. Screengrab via YouTube.

Then, there are a bunch of wife-makes-upma, wife-does-shopping, veg-biriyani-is-not-biryani, why-is-cold-shoulder-top type jokes. Promptly followed by Bangalore traffic, RCB, don’t-know-Hindi jokes. Thrown in, quite lazily, is also a dig at the Kanchana film franchise. Only thing missing was a Sardarji joke!

If you haven’t noticed, what ails Mr Family Man is that all the ideas are stale. This hour-long set brings very little by way of insight into family life. His observations are so refurbished, they’d give stiff competition to the duplicate leather sofa he tells us about in the show.
The humour itself is only a ‘potential purple’ shade better. Let me quote just one example. At one point, he talks about how everyone was giving him ideas to lose his tummy. “Friends told me that I need to go on a diet, cut off carbs, especially cut off biriyani,” laments Praveen. “Cut off, I did…their friendship,” he concludes. While this is the lowest hanging fruit in this tree, there are plenty of others that come very close.

In this primarily Tamil stand-up set, Praveen doesn’t do much with the language either. He uses it as a means to an end, and that’s that, apart from a short burst of multi-lingual wordplay and puns. This is the one section that’s enjoyable, packed with what might be called mokkai, but brings a chuckle or two.

With a funny punchline here and a smart pun there, Mr Family Man isn’t entirely unwatchable. If you’re a middle-aged Indian upper class man, you might even find it relatable. But, it is so ordinary that it doesn’t hold up as compelling comedy. Neither does it challenge our thinking, nor does it make us roll in laughter.

It doesn’t tie together around the travails and victories of a family man. Praveen pulls his punches so often that I wonder if he worries that the joke will hurt if it lands. He has put together a bunch of jokes, some of which work, but he never really convinces us why Mr Family Man is a superhero, let alone being unsung.

Ranjani Krishnakumar is a writer, obsessor and a nascent Chennai-vasi. You can reach her at @_tharkuri

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