Would you believe it? Even comedy’s been outsourced!”
English-language Indian comics in the US and Europe have grown steadily in popularity over the last few years, from the now instantly recognizable Russell Peters to newer celebrities such as Papa CJ (responsible for the above joke) and Sugar Sammy. Courtesy YouTube some of their fame has reached India too, where Peters and CJ have earlier performed to sell-out audiences.
Laughtrack: Sugar Sammy’s routine will be a mix of Hindi, English and Punjabi.
Come 9 September, and an entire festival awaits stand-up comedy fans. The Big Laugh Festival, organized by the event management company Percept D’Mark, will feature Papa CJ, Sugar Sammy and Palestinian-American comic Aron Kader. “The main idea is to bring international stand-up comedians from around the globe that will appeal to the evolving Indian sense of humour,” says Manuj Agarwal, chief operating officer of Big Laugh.
Rather than a one-off series, the organizers plan to introduce a more healthy stand-up calendar. “All metropolitan cities that have hosted English comedy acts have had a great turnout. Throughout the year, we will be bringing down artists to perform in various cities under the Big Laugh Festival banner,” says Vishal Shetty, entertainment consultant at Percept D’Mark.
The three comics tread familiar stand-up territory in their US shows: racial profiling and discrimination, jabs at outsourcing and the Indian diaspora, and the seemingly perplexing multiplicity of Indian religious traditions and customs (arranged marriage and reincarnation are particularly popular targets). Their material will be explicit, and often half-afloat in the murky, provocative waters of political incorrectness.
Most of their stand-up is a mix of improvisation and rehearsed routines, and they promise fresh material at their upcoming shows.
“Touring has been amazing. It’s a very unique position to be in for any comedian to travel and I relish the opportunity,” says Samir Khullar, or Sugar Sammy. “I always gear my set to my environment. It changes not only from country to country, but city to city.”
Sammy’s act will shift seamlessly between three languages, “a mix of English, Hindi and Punjabi. A North American vibe with Indian sensibilities”. His acts feature a lot of impromptu interaction with the audience, a style familiar to Peters fans.
Kader (pronounced “kay-duhr”) is perhaps the odd one out, the only comic in the planned line-up who isn’t of Indian descent. He’s one of the four founding members of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, a travelling troupe of Egyptian, Iranian and Palestinian comics in post-9/11 America (sample gag: If I ever have a son, I’m going to name him Al. Al Kader. That’s a good name to have in this country)—and will be visiting the country for the first time. “I have never been to India so I am really excited to see and experience something new,” he says. “I plan to examine the subject of racial profiling and discrimination of Indians and Arabs, maybe have a little competition to see who’re the bigger victims!”
The Big Laugh Festival starts in New Delhi on 9 September, moves to Mumbai on 10-11 September, and to Bangalore on 12 September. Tickets are Rs350-1,500, and can be booked online at www.bookmyshow.com