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Get, set, laugh

The 2-day Naked Comedy Festival promises a stellar line up of side-splitting humour that will encompass everything from jokes on Anna Hazare to spoofs that imagine how one Hindi film hero would reprise another's iconic role

Fidgety and demonstrative, Shaun Williams is a bundle of energy just waiting to burst forth in some kind of dramatic gesture -- which is why, when he tells us that his debutante group of six will be a doing a 15-minute sketch comedy routine on how different Hindi film actors would reprise another's role at the Naked Comedy Festival next week, we are not surprised.


From left: Varun Grover, Shaun Williams, Ashwin Mushran (the host),
and Aditi Mittal are all set to tickle your funny bone at the Naked Comedy
Festival. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar


Pegged as India's first such comedy outing, Naked Comedy, an offering of Bonobo Productions, is a two-day festival that will feature 10 Indian comedians from across the country. "The idea was to give these guys a bigger stage than the bars and restaurants that they usually get to perform at," explains Neville Timbadia, partner, Bonobo Productions, even as he directs workers busy renovating the Bandra bar and lounge on a sultry September day.

The line up includes the lanky Papa CJ, CA-turned comedian Kunal Rao, crazie Bawa (his words, not ours) Neville Shah, and comedy routine regular Sorabh Pant, among others. The enormity of the occasion (performing in front of a large audience as opposed to the niche crowds that frequent comedy clubs and bars) is not lost on these guys. As Rao puts it, "It's very aptly named. All of us are going to be stripped on stage, quite literally. We will be very naked in front of the audience!"

For Delhi-based Abish Matthew, the Mumbai vs Delhi shtick just doesn't work anymore, which is why he won't be including it in his set. "It's the easiest thing to do, but I don't know much about Mumbai anyway, so I'm not going to go there. I will involve a lot of music in my act, sing original songs about how men are different from women, and give you a self-deprecatory tour about myself," he says, before adding quickly, "Though I'm not all that bad!"

Similarly for Shah, who says his 15-minute act will include observations and anecdotes from his life, because, that, he feels, "is the best way for the audience to relate to your material. Even the greats, from Jerry Seinfeld to Bill Cosby, include personal material in their work." Shah is also looking forward to catching the girls, Aditi Mittal and Neeti Palta, in action. "Simple things like the pain to use a dirty toilet seat -- I understand them better after seeing the funny perspective these girls bring to their acts."


With her blue nailpaint, frilly pink top, oversized geeky glasses and bright blue hairband that she adjusts ever so often, Mittal looks like quite the fashionista. Except, she's not. "The colour, the prints, the texture! What they hell are they talking about, I wonder," she laughs, exaggerating her complete ignorance of fashion while adding drolly that she only dressed up like this on the day to make sure, "Mom didn't look at my pictures and say 'didn't you wash your face?'"

Sure enough, her 20 minute-act will include her take on fashion and her recent trip to the US, quite a departure from Lucknow-based Varun Grover's more political, wry humour. Laughing and pulling all kinds of faces with the others to the accompaniment of some fervent ball-tossing and tambourine-beating during the shoot, Grover nevertheless says, "My humour's actually very straight-faced and, deadpan. I love current affairs, and I'll be doing a lot of political jokes, especially related to the Northern belt."

The Naked Comedy Festival is scheduled at St Andrew's auditorium on October 7 and 8. Tickets are available on www.bookmyshow.com and at Bonobo

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