Laugh out loud, Mumbai

The audience will encounter countless ROFL moments this weekend. With comedians like Sorabh Pant, Aditi Mittal and Kunal Rao on board, the NCPA Cheer festival is just what the doctor ordered to beat your monsoon blues away. The three-day festival that tees off on Friday, hopes to introduce the audiences to different genres of comedy and also make sure young comedians get a platform to discover and showcase their talent. So, apart from the three plays and stand-up acts, there will also be workshops through the festival to help aspiring comedians learn about the techniques and nuances of making people laugh.

Sorabh Pant performing a stand-up act

“The workshops have been divided across three days based on specific genres of comedy,” explains Sorabh Pant who will be conducting these sessions along with Varun Grover, Aditi Mittal, Abish Mathew and Kunal Rao. “The first day will be a sketch writing workshop, followed by one on stand-up comedy the next day. The last day will be improv (improvised comedy),” Pant adds. Each of the workshops will be followed by stand-up comedy acts by these seasoned comedians. “On Saturday, we will be teaching the writing techniques of stand-up comedy and how to perform it. Post that there will be an open mic night and the person who wins from among all the participants will be part of two professional shows with us,” says Pant, adding that the basic idea is to tell people how to crack a joke.

Divya Palat and Aditya Hitkari in the play The Marriage Counsellor, which is part of FourSome

His three-week old group The East India Co.medy has already done several shows across the country. Pant feels that in the last six to eight months the comedy scene has improved to a large extent and it is now a lot easier to become a comedian. So, have Indians become a lot more comfortable laughing at themselves? “Honestly, 99.9 % Indians can take jokes on themselves. It’s only that 0.1 percent who are sitting on their couches waiting to get offended,” affirms Pant.

Divya Palat, whose play FourSome, is going to be staged as part of the festival, says she is extremely happy that such a platform is being given to comedy. FourSome includes four completely different comedies, exploring four different contemporary relationships. “I think comedy is the hardest to perform,” says Palat adding, “These days, it takes very little to make someone cry but it is very difficult to make a person laugh. This festival is a great way to celebrate comedy.” Palat agrees that things have improved a lot for comedy as a genre in the last few months and she feels Indians are becoming more open now to laugh at themselves.

“The West has had a lot to do with it. Sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory have become popular and they feature an Indian who is funny but not as a caricature. He is naturally funny. We seem to now understand that to be funny we don’t have to wear ridiculous costumes and make-up. We are realising that Indians can also be intelligent comics. It’s nice that Indians are taking themselves a little less seriously,” she summarises.

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