Amidst all struggles and stress of daily life, a pleasant moment comes when you laugh out loud. That one moment, without a thought of the future or a regret of the past, you are rolling with laughter. Digging deep down to know what it actually takes to make others laugh, thestatesman.com spoke to Delhi-based comedians who carried a magic wand in their hands to tickle the funniest bone – Nitin Mandal and Nishant Suri, on the sidelines of a standup comedy stage show at Akshara Theatre in the national capital.
Twenty-four-year-old Nitin, who was a theatre artiste, started standup comedy accidentally in March 2015 when he, for the first time, got introduced to the open mic during one of his plays.
“I was a theatre artiste and it was theatre only that introduced me to something like standup comedy. During one of my plays at the India Habitat Centre, I was introduced to the open mic… It was just a five-minute session but it made me realise what I was going to do next with my life.”
Nitin has performed in more than 20 shows and has shared the stage with eminent comedians of the industry. However, his journey wasn’t a bed of roses.
“In the beginning, I faced so many problems like I wasn’t getting spots in open mic when I turned a comedian professionally. Then there came a time when I got shows but struggled to deliver jokes properly due to extreme pressure.”
Alongside, the 29-year-old BITS Pilani graduate Nishant Suri, found his true recognition in standup comedy after trying almost everything.
“I did my first comedy open mic in Bangalore in mid 2014. I was unhappy in my job, and the prospect of working my entire life in a cubicle scared the daylights out of me. I started introspecting to figure out what skills I had and what kind of job I would be happy in. I realised that being funny had always been my thing in school, so why not try and do it professionally,” Nishant said.
Talking about the initial days, the engineer-turned stage artiste said: “I guess everybody struggles in this profession in the beginning, and I did too. However, I was also doing wedding photography on the side, so I was financially secure and didn’t have any pressure on me. This helped me enjoy what I was doing and focus on getting better at it.”
Nitin, also known as Mr. Nooni, believes that comedy is the only thing he’s born to do and only this platform can lead him to success. “I want to become famous and I guess comedy can make it happen. My friends, family and relatives believe that one day I will be like Raju Shrivastav.”
Nishant also said he enjoys making people laugh. “I’ve had confidence issues when I was a kid, and having this ability to make people laugh always made me feel better about myself; this was my thing, I was the funny guy. And of course you enjoy the attention, all comics do (anybody who says otherwise is lying).”
Born and brought up in Delhi, both the comics have seen various colours of life here and have been exposed to different categories of audiences in their shows. Out of all four metro cities, Delhi serves an artiste with the best of variety.
“The major category is of students, who want to pass their time in the best possible way. Then, there’s audience who is watching comedy for the first time and these are the people who actually matter the most as your performance will decide whether they’ll watch comedy again or not. However, in our bar shows, we have to tackle another set of audience that drinks a lot. We call it the heckler category in audience,” Nitin said.
Nishant, who has performed more than 50 shows in different locations, also appeared concerned with the issue, saying it’s hard to find good audience in bar shows.
“Comedy clubs are the best places to perform, because every person in that audience has paid to see that show and mostly receptive to whatever we throw at them. Conversely, if you’re performing in a pub or a bar, you have to be a little careful to make sure you don’t end up offending them. We have to respect the fact that a part of India is still quite conservative, and can’t be expected to change overnight,” Nishant added.
Nitin and Nishant don’t earn much with the stage shows as the stage performing art is on its fall as with the emergence of commercial cinema and YouTube channels, the performing art stage shows fail to attract much crowd to auditoriums. People find more comfort in watching a 30-40 minutes episode lying on the couch while eating chips, rather than going out to watch a play, concert or any other stage show.
Those who have done stage art would know that that everyone of us has witnessed a moment when we were blank on stage. When we asked these amusing performers about this, they revealed a few jovial moments.
“I faced this so many times during my performances and I believe this situation comes in many great comedians’ career when they go back on stage. Such situations give you a chance to do better every time. Sometimes I think the joke is funny and then I see the people in audience don’t get it. They don’t give you a reaction but keep on staring at you, expecting something more to come from your end,” Nitin said.
Nishant shared a moment from one of his stage shows last year. “I was still quite new, performing with senior comics and desperately wanted to do well. Midway through a set, I forgot a word on which the rest of the joke depended. Thankfully, my cousin (who’d seen me do the same joke earlier) was sitting in the audience (unknown to me), yelled out the word when he realised what was happening. I cannot tell you how amazing that moment felt, and how relieved I was. He was my guardian angel!”
The two artistes recently performed at the Stand-up Comedy Show – Funions held on December 3, in the capital.