Stand-up comedy may not be the most common form of entertainment in modern India, but this art-form was very popular in ancient and medieval India. Known as Vidushak, they were known for their witty, intelligent and jestful acts in the courts of Indian kings. While this was a thing of past in India, a trend of stand-up comedy is slowly catching up again. Keeping the same in mind, comedians Rajiv Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu were in the city on Saturday as a part of the comedy tour, Make Chai Not War, organised by the US Consulate General Hyderabad, in partnership with Manthan. Azhar and Rajiv have been performing together for five year now. And, when they asked Hari to join them for this tour, he graciously accepted the offer.
Make Chai Not War
Based on the phrase often used by hippies from the 1960s 'Make Love Not War' was born the title 'Make Chai Not War'. Having been brought up in the United States, the three comedians talk about religious tolerance, breaking down prejudices and their experiences growing up as Indian-Americans in the US.
“We are here to make people laugh,” exclaims Azhar, adding, “It is a beverage that is consumed by Hindus and Muslims equally. We just want to share and solve problems. We are here to promote harmony.”
Uniquely an American art form, wherein people come together and express their opinion, the trio believes that stand-up comedy is the most free form of expression.“It is also the most cheap form of entertainment. One doesn't need costumes, or pre-production. Once the script is ready, all we need is a microphone to go on stage and start our monologue,” opines Hari.
Bending the mistake
With umpteen number of jokes and bits in their head, and a pressure to constantly make the audience laugh, a comedian may sometimes have a block on stage or may end up making a blunder. How does one take care of that?
“Sometimes it is in those mistakes that the best form of humour comes out,” shares Azhar, adding, “What we usually do is make a joke about the blunder we have made and turn it around from a mistake to an actual joke.
And at various incidents it has worked and people have found that moment the funniest.”
Owing it to Russell Peters
The trio made a special mention of Indian-born Canadian comedian Russell Peters who over the past decade has created a worldwide following for himself, managing to cross boundaries in a field that is almost as picky as it is racist. This has at the same time given other NRIs an opportunity to do the same.
“He managed to go beyond the boundaries set and make a mark for himself in the field of stand-up comedy. And we definitely owe it to him,” says Rajiv.
According to the three comedians, even though stand-up comedy is in its nascent stage in India, it has full scope to grow. “Audience is being burgeoned --- credit can be given to the internet; websites like Facebook and Youtube have made everything a lot more accessible,” says Rajiv.
Sharing their experiences of their previous performances, Hari says, “What we noticed in other cities of India was a significant difference in reaction to our jokes between the younger and the older generation. While the youngsters were getting all our jokes bang on, the older generation would either eventually give a laugh, or just frown. It was an interesting contrast,” signs off Azhar.