Comedy is slowly becoming a forgotten performing art. Stand-up comedians get the worse end of the deal when it comes to being recognized for their talent and getting the opportunity to be taken seriously as artists. What people don’t realise is that in order to perform top-notch stand-up, one must have wit, speaking skills, audience perception as well as impeccable stage presence.
Being a successful comic greatly depends on one’s personality, confidence level and charisma. And just like any performing art form, comedy takes practice and dedication. Dancers, singers, musicians, and actors have the opportunity to become professionals with academic recognition by earning degrees in their specific fields. They are also appreciated for turning themselves into another character, mastering an instrument, or having a beautiful voice. However, when it comes to comedians, they are put aside as people following their hobby.
Comedy, much like any genre, has various categories, such as movies; sitcoms; sketch comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live” with topical jokes and guest stars and finally stage comedy such as improv, in which the comedians interact with the audience for their material. Out of all these diverse genres, stand-up is the only branch of comedy that incorporates and combines all the traits of the other genres. Months and years of writing go into creating a great standup special, not to mention the hours of practice to get the timing and delivery of jokes right. Some comedians use props like puppets or instruments to add something extra to their sets. At times they use topical comedy, share life experiences or engage with the crowd to relate to their audience. Through the years, stand-up has evolved from joking about basic situations like bad food at restaurants to making deep personal confessions that encourages the audience to share in the pain and joy that make up humorous anecdotes.
Comedians are not given the same possibilities despite spending hours practicing a natural talent and performing a rehearsed piece for an audience. Comedy is considered as a part of theatre and film as when a comedian performs as a character, it’s considered “comedic acting”. However, when a comedian performs as himself or herself (or as an on-stage persona) telling jokes, it’s not considered acting, but is referred to as “stand-up”. It is seen more like a hobby than a performing art form.
India has seen the rise of many comedians. From film stars like Johnny Lever, Kader Khan, Paresh Rawal and Govinda to stand-up comics like Kanan Gill, Kaneez Surka, Veer Das, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Abeesh Mathew, Kenny Sebastian and more. Comedians like Mallika Dua, Lilly Singh and Gaurav Gupta have gained fame through social media. India has shows like ‘Comicstaan’ that look for young talent and giving them a chance to flourish under the guidance of established comedians.
Stand up deserves more credit than it is given and in India it is a growing sector today. Live shows and performances are quick to sell out in big cities. Comedians have a significant amount of following on social media and otherwise, giving rise to a lesser celebrated genre.