Being funny is serious business. Over the last decade, live comedy shows in Kannada, where speakers tell jokes, have become an integral part of festivals and cultural events round the year. Some performers are invited to perform abroad regularly.People like Gangavati Pranesh, Mimicry Dayanand, Krishne Gowda, Kotreshi, Nagaraj Kote, Sudha Baragur and Hiremath are known across the state.
For some, it is a fulltime profession, while others, like Krishna Gowda, who works as a professor, it is a hobby.
“I accidently entered this field. I have gathered a lot of fans through comedy. Since people expect so much from me, I update myself on all subjects,” he says Pranesh, who hails from a northern Karnataka town known as a rice trading centre.
Mimicry Dayanand, one of the seniormost comedians, has a distinctive approach to comedy. “I have been a comedian for almost three decades and I am probably among the first to foray into one-act comedy. Now, there are several others, but it is not easy to make people laugh,” says Dayanand.
For Krishne Gowda, comedy happened without effort. “I was not interested in becoming a comedian . It so happened that Aparanji Koravanji Trust, which conducts a humour festival every year on December 25, invited me in 2001 to be one of the speakers. That was when I found out I could make people laugh,” says Krishne Gowda, who teaches Kannada literature at St Philomena’s College. For him, his classes and college are the first priority. Comedy, he says, is a weekend hobby.
Each stand-up comedian has developed a style. Krishne Gowda, for example, uses literature as a medium for humour.Pranesh and Mimicry Dayanand don’t stick to a particular subject. “If doctors invite me, I choose medicine jokes. Similarly, my jokes change if I address engineers, teachers or politicians,” says Dayanand. For general audiences, he takes up something wide ranging, like humour in life.”Bitter incidents from my life have been the inspiration for some of my most popular jokes,” says Pranesh.
These stand-up comedians are busy in Karnataka throughout the year, and do up to 20 shows abroad in a year. Krihne Gowda, who frequently goes abroad for his shows, says there is space for all comedy artistes across the globe. “I am usually invited by Kannadigas living abroad, where we go in groups or individually, depending on the organisers’ budget.Even philosophers used comedy to get their message across, says Krishne Gowda. Pranesh believes anyone can be won over if you make them laugh. “Anything told with humour is better understood,” he says.
‘Politicians don’t accept humour. So I gave it up’
While comedy dramas, such as those presented by Master Hirannaiah, are unsparing about politicians, stand-up comedians aren’t campaigning or commenting on elections. “I feel there is a lot of space for election humour. The problem is, in India, people don’t take it sportivelly. Every comment takes on a serious tone. So it’s difficult,” says Krishne Gowda.
Mimicry Dayanand recalls he had released a CD during election time, but it did not go down well with people.
“Politicians don’t accept humour. So I gave it up,” he says.
Pranesh’s priority is making people laugh, and politicians are not necessary for that. “I am in my space. Let us be happy, and make others happy. Why turn serious with political comments?” he says.