CHENNAI:For a while now, stand-up comedy shows have been doing rounds in the city; from theatres and bars to open mic nights. For a change, Evam Standup Tamasha is bringing a sketch comedy show to you this weekend. Go Straight, Take Left — a hilarious show of six sketches by stand-up comic and theatre artistes Sumukhi Suresh and Naveen Richard.
The show has been performed 11 times in different cities, but each one has had a different ending and offered something new. This time, expect some Tamil jokes — no movie-based or personality references have been made. “It is a reference-free show. Anything that seems familiar is because you’ve experienced it too. Our sketches are mostly observation-based,” says Naveen.
They love playing characters! Be it the annoying commuter who breaks a ticket line or a woman with road-rage going through a midlife crisis, their sketches are the blueprints of eccentric characters that we meet every day. Sumukhi’s personal favourite is their last sketch, a conversation between a puppet and a ventriloquist that will leave you in a dilemma. Is Sumukhi the puppet or is she faking a puppet? The duo loves to mess with your minds!
Even while they change costumes for the next sketch, you might probably not want to talk to your neighbour or fish your phone out. “Though there is no common theme between the sketches, there is a common thread — voice over. Even while we are backstage, an audio sketch plays about us doing stuff there,” says Naveen.
With their experiences in theatre and improv, you’d have to take them seriously when one of them says, “When Sumukhi and I write a sketch, we improvise on it, write it down and bring in the theatre discipline, structure it; during rehearsals, the content becomes tight.” Sumukhi concurs with Naveen, and adds, “We explore a lot of ideas and they have a beginning, middle and an end. Yes, a single idea may not run an hour but the content is fresh and keeps you engaged.”
It’s not their first time either. While Sumukhi has written sketches with comic Richa Kapoor, Naveen and his group ‘Them Boxer Shorts’, wrote one with comic Kenny Sebastian. We asked them if Chennaiites, who are addicted to stand-up, would favour sketches? They believe so. “Frankly, they would love it more! In terms of theatre and performance, Chennai is little ahead of its curve. They appreciate original scripts and I feel their receptiveness would be higher,” says Sumukhi.
Naveen has been part of playwright Anton Chekov’s 10-minute plays. He is excited about performing in Chennai as his career started here…and so did Sumukhi’s. “We grew up far away and no one would take my Tamil humour — my pseudo Tamil humour at least. At times, when the two of us are hanging out, we suddenly get into these Tamil characters that nobody in Mumbai gets. Now is our chance and we are gonna get crazy!” Naveen grins.
Ideal Platform for Sketches
The advantage for web sketches is that you can make it look real. But for us actors, nothing beats a live audience. Back in the days, when TV sketch shows like Fry and Lorrie, Monty Python, were popular, they would film it as meant for TV but in front of a live audience. You have a live backdrop, audience watching you and a laughter track. People at home also watch it like it’s live. Unfortunately, things have changed. One can’t afford to shoot for a live audience anymore. For us, the ideal scenario would be to perform it like in the olden days with a set built for TV but to a live audience. Not the way sitcoms are filmed, but a genuine interaction and for the audience.
— Naveen Richard
(Catch Naveen Richard and Sumukhi Suresh’s Go Straight, Take Left on October 8, at Alliance Franscaise of Madras. Two back-to-back shows, 5 pm-6.30 pm and 7.30 am-9 pm. Tickets are available on bookmyshow.com)