AIB has brought to the mainstream with their ‘On air with AIB’ and their ‘ AIB Knockout’ the underground comedy scene in India. It has thrown a light on the market for comedy in India and the tastes of the evolving audience. Although a decidedly urban phenomenon, the evolution of this space and its thriving marketability have come to the fore especially after the advent of ‘Youtube stars’. The ability of comics to pull crowds and create amazing online content has forced everyone to stand up and take notice.
India hasn’t always been the best place for comedy, with little or no support financially and with a niche audience, it was always a sorry stepson in the entertainment industry. However with an influx of capital, interest, top notch production and curation by big labels in the entertainment biz such as OML, Comedy Central, Hotstar , Percept, and Endemol, this is slowly changing.
Standup comedy definitely has a high profit margin, given its minimal staging requirements and production. In this business, finding the right talent is essential to draw crowds and this has recently become easier with a vetting process of ‘online following’ that allowed investors to hedge their bets. The rise of comedy collectives such as AIB, EIC (East India Comedy),TVF (The Viral Fever), and charismatic performers such as Kaneez Surka, Kenneth Sebastian, Abish Mathew,Kalyan Biswa and Kannan Gill have changed the game forever. These performers now have a certain leverage and are bringing the alien concept of ‘comedic rock stars’ to the Indian audience.
Here’s Kenneth Sebastian killing it at a live show
The growing market for comedy and the willingness for people to ‘pay for a good laugh’ is definitely a healthy sign of the times. From open mics to festivals such as Weirdass Comedy, Chuckle Festival, Stage 42 and a lot more upcoming properties. The scene is still nascent, but is growing aggressively. Stand-up is resonating with more and more of the audience as it challenges our hypersensitivity to new ideas and gives a safe space for people to vent out against convention, foibles, politics et al.
Jokes whether crass, highbrow or commercial, can be said to test the tensile strength of the nation and we definitely need this space for irreverence.