At least, Stand Up For Stand Up

I had a couple of other blog posts lined up, but keeping in mind the recent turn of events. I couldn’t help but first get this out of my system. Now, you need to understand that the Arunabh Kumar and sexual harassment revelations is a very sensitive issue to comment about. Especially, for me and other members of the comedy community. Here’s why:

1.) TVF is one of the biggies in a small fraternity. Nobody wants to come out too strongly and spoil current and future prospects of collaboration. (Keep reading, don’t rile up just yet.)

2.) I personally know him and many other folks at TVF. In all honesty, they’re some of the sweetest and smartest people in the industry. The respect and help I’ve received from them is rare to find. Plus I have always admired Arunabh and his journey. So, when a news like this breaks, your first reaction is of disbelief. However, with facts getting more concrete, you start looking back and questioning everything.

BUT.

That said. There’s one simple question we need to ask ourselves as comedians. As people who are not clowns for entertainment, but the voice of reasoning and social change. As people who are the first ones to jump on any viral bandwagon and criticise others humorously. As people who are known to say things that others are too afraid to call out or glorify.

The question is: Would we not comment if it was NOT someone from our fraternity?

I mean it’s sexual harassment we’re talking about. Even if it’s not proven. It’s the fucking possible breach of consent and respect. What’s the worth of making women empowerment videos, or coming up with anti-misogyny sketches? It has to be more than virality right? It has to be something you truly believe in.

Now, here’s where the American stand up scene comes into play. Remember Cosby? No, I’m not comparing Arunabh to him. Not at least until anything is proven. I just want to use the Cosby case as an example of how the American comedians were the first ones to criticise the living day lights out of him. At least four legendary comics I know have honest bits talking about Bill. The point is, you started doing stand up for a reason. Which was portraying the truth. Not making Gujarati jokes. And, the art demands equality. If we are going to be the ones who have opinions on everything, we can’t make exceptions. Not especially, when the world is looking at us.

So, here’s what I think we should do. Just come out and speak up. A handful comics have started tweeting about it, but the majority are silent. The deal is you can pick a side or even not. If you think that this is all hoax, say it. The TVF guys are defending the case. And they have the right to do so. If you think there’s some gravitas to the accusations, support that side. Or if you think, you’re too perplexed to form an opinion right now, not because of the two points I mentioned earlier, but because you don’t want to end up criticising someone who’s not at fault, say that. But, say something. And don’t be scared of saying it. TVF is a company that has built an empire out of being opinionated about sensitive issues. They hopefully won’t misunderstand your right to express.

I’m sure many of you are wondering, where do I really stand on this. I’ll be very sincere here. It takes a lot for a woman in India to speak up against harassment. And for many more to come out after the first confession, it’s hard to believe this as a mere one-time incident. At the same time, having known the company up close, it makes this a huge shocker. The need of the hour is a clear and concrete statement from Arunabh and the team. Tweeting isn’t going to be the way out of such a strong accusation that is slowly turning the tide against them.

Yeah, that’s that. I’ll continue with my New York comedy escapades from the next blog onwards, but I could not hold myself back from telling people the one fundamental thing I’ve learnt in my time here i.e., stand up is more about voicing your opinions, when you’re not actually on stage.

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1. Hello Brutal

I’ve been meaning to start this documentation for about two months now. But, I thought getting some new jokes, before starting to talk about how they’re not working, might be a better plan. Also, the point of this blog is to be free from the pressure of being funny and purely vent out my regular off-stage escapades. So, if you want the ‘Cool on social media- oh he’s so funny Deep’,  I have a YouTube channel, you can check that out instead. I know, I’ll upload more videos soon, stop fretting.

So, for those who know, and those who don’t (you don’t really stalk, do you?)  I moved to the United States in January 2017 to take up a course in advertising as a sneaky excuse to figure the comedy scene in its birthplace, New York.

Honestly, it’s an uphill task to delve into the specifics of all the shows I’ve done here till now. But, the plan of action is to at least initially establish the stark differences in the Indian and American comedy scenarios, so it becomes easier from hereon.

Here are where the stakes at. The Indian English (Hinglish, to be honest)  Stand Up Comedy showbiz is roughly about 6-7 years old. Whereas, the American comedy circuit started off in the 1950’s (approx). Which means, it’s almost 10 times bigger, 10 times more chewed up and 10 times more brutal. Oh 10 is an unjustified number for that last one. All of India has just 3 legit comedy clubs, Manhattan alone has 12 (I’m just counting the good ones). India according to me has 150-175 comics, US has 1,00,000-1,10,000. You get where this is going right?

So, yeah leaving the comfort of my city, crowds and CLC, I knew I was entering a fire circus. Which is why, I did something I would never have the guts to do back home, especially cause I was getting paid for gigs. I rebooted. It’s something I’ve always told myself, “When you don’t know where you’re going, just go back to the start.” Also, very honestly, I had no option. My last few months in Mumbai were creatively the worst months of my 4-year comedy stint. No substantial thoughts, no time investment, and the saddest of them all, no regret for being fuckall.

Coming back, so I discarded 45 minutes worth material (will be putting it out slowly, so you guys don’t forget me) and made a small plan on how to restart. For the first two weeks, I didn’t get on stage. I purely invested in catching all types of shows. Saw the pro-nights at the Greenwich Comedy Club and the Broadway Comedy Club, a rising star type thingy at the Village Lantern, a funeral-ish open mic at The Creek and the Cave and long form improv at The PIT. What fun but expensive that was. A Friday night show at Greenwich is 25 dollars plus two drinks minimum inside. That’s 3,000 rupees, for one freaking show. I could hear my dad’s voice echo in the background, saying, “That is someone’s monthly salary naalayak”. In addition to that, I also started watching one comedy special a day. Try it. It makes travel time really interesting.

Anyway, what that basically did was, it gave me a sneak peek into the comedy/crowd culture and a sense of the playing field. Next, I wrote 3 minutes of new material and showed up at an open mic at the Creek and the Cave. The great thing about NY is that you have a minimum of 10 mics on every day of the week (check them out on freemics.com), so getting on stage isn’t a problem. The problem is getting in front of an actual crowd. 90 percent of the mics have only comics in the audience, and we all know how much a human loves to laugh at another human he/she considers as competition. Also, I was getting on stage after a month so the rust was factoring in, plus these basements are super unnerving. So, this is what happens, I go up there after 21 people, talk for three minutes, just create sound, not get any familiar homo-sapien reaction, just pure sound and in return soak in the silence, get off and leave, like nothing ever happened. Did this 4 times in one week at different clubs, so shame doesn’t correlate to geography.

This is getting really long and I think I should stop for now. I’ll leave you with this though. I’m two months in. I’ve done 16 shows, out of which 2 were proper shows in front of medium-sized audiences, and honestly those two were few of the most fulfilling ones I’ve done in a really long time. They made bombing at the other 14 so worth it. I’ve reached tight 7 minutes. March is here. The aim is to have a universal 60 minutes that I can tour in December. Not sure if I’ll make it. The process however is liberating. My outlook has had a complete turn-around and now comedy is becoming more innate and sacred with each passing day.

Thanks for reading this. If you have any questions or want me to talk about something, feel free to comment. I’ll be happy to share. Will try making this a weekly thing. For now, it’s a goodbye friends and hello brutal.