Kaneez Surka on Comicstaan 2: Female comedians don't have liberty to fail often
Kaneez Surka on the challenges women face to make a mark in the comedy world as she returns to judge the second season of Comicstaan with Sumukhi Suresh and Biswa Kalyan Rath
Riding high on the success of season one, Amazon Prime Video is back with the second instalment of the comedy reality show, Comicstaan. mid-day catches up with Kaneez Surka, Sumukhi Suresh and Biswa Kalyan Rath as they discuss their judging duties and the rise of women in the world of comedy.
Excerpts from the interview.
Besides the talent, what else is new in the second season of Comicstaan?
Surka: Of the three new judges on the panel, it’s great that two of them are female. In season one, I was the only female judge on board and Sumukhi was a host. We would often make eye contact with each other from across the stage when we would relate to the jokes.
Rath: The round that I am doing, Comedy Of Terrors, is different from the last season. I don’t want to brag, but this season is better than the last.
Surka: But my Improv episode is better than his episode.
From being the host last season, you’re a judge now. Did you feel the pressure of scoring contestants?
Suresh: I felt the pressure for the first one hour of the shoot. You can’t be the sweet girl anymore and adorn them with compliments. But eventually, the pressure reduced.
Many who watched the previous season were of the opinion that the female comedians were far better than their male counterparts.
Suresh: Are you saying in life? (Laughs)
Surka: I agree. Women bring finesse and finish to comedy. Since we get so much hate all the time, we make sure to bring our A-game to the mic because we don’t have the liberty to fail too many times. Girls feel that pressure and it helps us take comedy to the next level.
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Is there anything new you learnt while mentoring these aspiring comedians?
Rath: As an audience, you think judging is easy, but when you have to rate it out of 10, the mathematics becomes tough. Yes, the contestant’s joke made me laugh, but we cannot hand off 10 to everyone. Last time, we’d score the first few contestants with all our heart, and they were left with nothing to score the others. This time, we were slightly more conservative.
How has season one changed your career?
Suresh: More people watched Pushpavalli [her solo show as lead].
Rath: It made comedy legit. My friend messaged me a picture from Delhi Metro and when I zoomed in, I saw my face [on an ad]. For him, I had arrived.
Surka: People now recognise me as a Comicstaan judge; that has become my tag now. The show also brought Improv comedy to light. In India, comedy is synonymous with stand-up. For the past 10 years, I would take 15 minutes to explain the concept of Improv before every gig. But this year, I didn’t have to explain; people already knew.
In your previous interview, you had said that you will explore stand-up comedy. How has that worked out?
Surka: I am doing a lot more stand-up this year and thoroughly enjoying it. I got to learn about so many different kinds of comedy because of Comicstaan.
Besides the second season of Pushpavalli, what’s in the pipeline?
Suresh: I am currently touring with my stand-up set called Don’t Tell Amma. I am also writing some more shows because I want to be the lead again, and no one is going to write for me. For future references, I can be a best friend in any Bollywood movie [laughs]. If you are looking for another Sweety from Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), you have to look no further.
Tanmay Bhat, Naveen Richards and Sapan Verma are no longer part of the show.
(After a bit of stammering) Rath: The judges’ panel keeps changing, we don’t have a say in that.
Surka: The format is such that changes are constantly incorporated.
Was there ever a contention over scores between judges?
Surka: There have been moments when, after we have announced our scores, Biswa and I would be surprised at the [disparity] in our individual scores.
Rath: Sometimes, when the last joke is funny, you end up rating the whole act based on that. But it’s easy to get swayed by the crowd.
So, the crowd does influence your decision?
Rath: 100 per cent.
Since you are judging for the first time, what were your criteria to score them?
Sumukhi: A stand-up piece needs to have a performative element to it. You cannot perform the joke and go. Stand-up is a mix of story building and observation, and if someone mixes the two, I am not much of a stickler. General stage hygiene and etiquette are other criteria.
When asked to pick their favourite from season 1:
Surka: Prashasti [Singh]has grown by leaps and bounds. She used everything she learned on the show in her career.
Rath: You are not allowed to have favourites. [All laugh] All 10 have shown tremendous potential.
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