Once upon a time, the stand-up comedy scene in India was a thriving, flourishing entity. Indian audiences were slowly coming around to the multi-faceted, many-splendored nature of humour. From watching Kader Khan-Shakti Kapoor-esque duos horsing around in your average Bollywood flick and the canned laughter in mediocre TV sitcoms, they had now evolved to enjoying the real, raw, live essence of stand-up comedy. Comic artists soon became celebrated stars – enjoying fame, success and veneration.
Enveloped in the glow of the unabashed admiration from fans, stand-up comics blossomed like never before, delivering chartbuster comedy shows. No topic was taboo for them; no controversy, off-limits. From lampooning popular politicians to busting familiar bastions of political correctness to cracking uproarious jokes on sex and religion, nary an issue was out of bounds for our comedy stars.
And then #MeToo happened. What started out as an aberration in Bollywood, quickly ballooned into a mass movement that swept every industry in its wake; including India’s nascent stand-up comedy industry. We all know what happened to a giant of the Indian comedy world.
And the ramifications of that are apparent in the second season of a popular comedy reality show, Comicstaan. Yes, Amazon Prime’s flagship show unquestionably bears the repercussions of #MeToo. It’s there in the glaring absence of a celebrated judge of Season 1. It’s there in the topics of the jokes – most would call them tame – the kind that would be better placed being delivered by cocky adolescents in school annual day functions. It’s there in the wariness that hangs thick in the air, a constant looking-over-one’s-shoulder wariness that prevents both contestants and judges from straying into seemingly forbidden territory. Forbidden by whom? No one knows. It’s just there, and it makes its presence felt, big time.
Comicstaan Season 2 has a proposition similar to Season 1. Seven popular comedians, experts in their chosen fields of humour, mentor ten contestants in the various genres of comedy. The mentors are also the judges. The ten contestants have to come good before a live studio audience and the judges, of course, with each one scoring points on the basis of their performance.
Biswa Kalyan Rath, Zakir Khan, Kanan Gill, Kenny Sebastian, Kaneez Surka, Sumukhi Suresh and NeetiPalta are the mentors-cum-judges of Season 2. Abish Mathew makes a comeback as host, while young comedian, UroojAshfaqtakes Sumukhi Suresh’s (Mathew’s co-host in Season 1) place as co-host.
Ramya Ramapriya, Sumit Sourav, Aakash Gupta, Samay Raina, Devanshi Shah, Supriya Joshi, Joel D’Souza, Rohan Gujral, Shreeja Chaturvedi and Raunaq Rajani are the ten contestants, plucked from across the length and breadth of the country.
Three episodes have streamed so far, out of a promised eight. Kanan Gill was mentor for the first episode, where he led the enthusiastic bunch through the nuances of observational comedy. Zakir Khan mentored the contestants on the merits of anecdotal comedy in the second episode. And Kaneez Surka served as the mentor for episode3, guiding the ten eager beavers on improv comedy.
Coming back to the topics – rather tame, if we may –Sreeja’s dustbin discourse was outrageous, to say the least. Her clever play on words evoked laughter, the deep-from-the-belly kind of laughter, while her distinctive dry humour deserves a special mention. She did flounder somewhat in the second episode, but we hope she makes up for it in subsequent episodes.
Aakash Gupta andSamayRainahave made early inroads, impressing audiences and judges alike with their hilarious sets. Joel D’Souza is another contestant who is quite exciting.
The episode on improv is by far the best of the lot so far. It is truly hilarious. Although it doesn’t really test the contestants on an individual level, it is funny AF.RaunaqRajaniand RohanGujral are outrageous in their horny Deshmukh Uncle-innocent Raju set. It is rip-roaringly funny, not to say, displays sparks of the irreverent humour and political incorrectness that made Season 1 such a riot. We hope against hope that the trend, once picked up, continues in the remaining episodes.
To put it succinctly, Season 2 has until now stuck to innocuous and harmless fun, straying on the safe side of humour, to put it better. Though funny and engaging, it lacks that distinctive bite that makes stand-up comedy such a joy to behold in today’s testing times. Maybe Comicstaan Season 2 will pick up steam in the subsequent episodes.
That said, the show vibrates with an energetic hum, buzzing with liveliness, with nary a dull moment or lull in pace. The edgy interlude music adds to the electrifying feel. Comicstaan Season 2 is an instant perk-me-up that invigorates – like a steaming cup of strong, fragrant coffee, on a dull, dull morning.
We definitely recommend watching Comicstaan Season 2 for our viewers. Even in its distinctly tame avatar, it is way better than the smut that passes off as comedy in the Indian content space.
In the meanwhile, 3/5 is our rating for Comicstaan Season 2.