Hasaudaicha Katle Le: Sikkim's comedians paving a pathway for professional standup comedy in the state
Comedy, a word related to humour and joy is part of every individual. Victor Borge, a Danish-American comedian once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people”. However, the question still remains can stand-up comedy be taken professionally to sustain a person’s day to day living?
The concept of comedy has its origins in the West and is still new to Eastern countries. Yet it isn’t as if the North Eastern regions and specifically the Nepali populated areas are completely devoid of it. From hilarious skits performed in schools/colleges and famous plays such as ‘Soon ko Authi’ (The Gold Ring) written by Laxman Shrimal and starring Dewraj Sherpa, Menuka Pradhan, Jiwan Gurung, Bimala Subba, Ganesh Rijal, Bishow Raj Pariyaar, Rona Chhetri and Bhaskar Pradhan that have entertained audiences young and old, comedy is very much a part of the hills.
In Sikkim, comedy culture is growing bigger with more people are coming forth in support, artists making their debuts but it is still a challenge for local comedians to sustain themselves only on the basis of gigs and shows.
It is estimated that, on an average, a beginner comedian in India earns about 1-2 lakhs per year, while on the other hand, a well-established comedian such as Zakir Khan earns about 15-20 crores annually. The current scope of comedy can be seen at a progressing stage, wherein burgeoning neo-cultures in the market are creating demand for creatives. As of now, with the pandemic affecting restaurants and events for performers, the future is almost unpredictable for those in the profession.
“Practically, it is not possible to earn a living only through standup comedy. It’s a long way to the top since the standup culture is just blooming in India so sustenance through standup gigs is really tough but it can be taken as a part-time occupation but can't really rely entirely on it,” quips Ashish*, a local comedian.
This brings to mind a quote by Ankur Nigam, an Indian comic:
“Standup in India is in its growing phase – the part of the Product Development Life Cycle where the future is rosy but the present is demanding. It is far away from hitting the peak and by then will not only nurture but also require a great deal of talent from amongst all.”
Open mic gigs, another American tradition being adopted by many in India, following which we can see at least one of these events at a restaurant or lounge where anyone can step up and showcase their skills. This remains one of the more popular opportunities for many to step into the comedy industry since these are free of cost. Furthermore, standup comedy stages on digital platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix also work for comedians whether they’re established or want a chance at it (Comicstaan, for example).
Recently, Sikkim is abuzz with talk on comedy. Hasais Katle, a comedy show started by Bkey Agarwal and three of his friends, has become a massive hit which led to various new comedians getting a stage they needed.
“Hasais Katle was a concept which came in my mind when I was watching a Youtube video of an Indian standup show. I realised that the humour which we are familiar with in Sikkim is based on caricature, over the top acting and acting very childish to make others laugh but humour actually was missing. So I shared the idea with Nirmal Sharma who was then my Facebook friend and also his page (Sikkimese Troll) was newly formed, so we discussed what we can do to promote good comedy and we included Biswas who had an experience in this field as he was from Mumbai so 3 of us decided to organise a small standup event at Gangtok which was kind of an experiment and it turned out to be a massive hit after which there was no looking back for Hasais Katle”, says Bkey.
Aadarsh Chettri, a performer at the Hasais Katle show quips. “Comedy is like a bunch of happiness, a catalyst to boost up happiness. Sikkim is now more into comedy shows and we can see local talents coming up with comedy videos and comedy shows like this. Every society is not the same, so when it gets circulated some portions may get hurt or take it in another way.”
“Comedy has a vast scope, if one starts with building up a career there are many options like - comedy series, stand up, articles, comics etc. there are several opportunities. The state can organize comedy competitions where mimicry, poem recitation, short films can be included.”
Stand up comedy can be termed as a form of entertainment for the audience where the artist delivers humorous jokes which simultaneously opens the jaws of the audience. The growing nature of the culture can also open doors for many aspirants in the state.
“Standup culture has just begun in this state but surprisingly the audience here is more welcoming even to the darkest humour without being offended,” says Bkey Agarwal, who recently successfully booked his place in the top 24 of Comedy Champion, Season 2 a show based in Nepal.
“Comedy, according to me is narrating the harshest of reality in the most humorous and entertaining manner, if you are able to portray your tragedy to the audience in an exciting way then you are a comedian”, he adds.
“To promote real Standup comedy first we need to understand what is an imitation and what is a standup comedy. We have a notion that just simply by doing the mimicry or imitating some famous comedians on stage one can become a Standup Comedian. Standup concept is way totally different than just a caricature it’s more like an art which is mastered with time and maturity. To really promote comedy in the state we need to promote people with good humour rather than a mimicry artist.”
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