Bengaluru Comedy Festival Showcase

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival has been gracing the city’s stages and smiles for thirty one years. But despite the festival’s firm roots in the comedy scene, it never ceases to surprise audiences with an array of people, stories and perspectives from around the world that are yet to be heard.

One of the newest voices to arrive this year is from India. The Bengaluru Comedy Festival Showcase includes some of the country’s finest from the burgeoning comedy scene. We sat down with Festival Director Sumendra Singh to learn more about the shows and India’s growing comedy scene.   

Can you tell us a little about the history of the Bengaluru Comedy Festival – how did it first get started?

I happened to be meeting a friend at a club in Koramangala when I saw Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Road Show. It was the first time I witnessed a comedy show and was very impressed. Having previously organised music festivals, I had some production experience but immediately started doing my research on the scene.

Bengaluru is a vibrant, multicultural and supportive city, especially when it comes to live shows. But there is a large number of people who have never seen stand-up comedy, especially a live show.  The idea to create the Bengaluru Comedy Festival was to introduce comedy to the people and encourage them and more comedians to come together under one roof, once a year for a great event.

From small shows of 80 seats twice a month to 200 seats in less than six. We’ve become India’s premier comedy destination in two years!  We want to continue to grow and promote the show to nurture new audiences and comedians in the years to come.

Can you tell me a little about your role as Festival Director for the Bengaluru Comedy Festival? 

I curate the festival from scratch which can be quite challenging at times. Deciding upon the different elements that go into making a production look and feel like a festival can range from how a segment is formatted to the programming and production and tickets and prices, there’s a lot of thought behind it.

I work with a small team to bring it all to life. We strongly focus on the operations and production side of things to ensure the audience experience is great! The comedians on stage do rest of the magic.

What’s the comedy scene like in India?

Stand-up comedy in India is a popular but still a fairly new scene, having only really come into popularity within the last seven years. It’s exciting because it’s gaining a strong audience base a show at a time as people become more familiar with the idea of comedy as an event they can attend as part of their weekend plans.

With a strongly focused stand-up scene, there are easily over 100 comedians in the country currently doing serious stage time every week many of whom who have turned this into a full time career. But there is an array of comedy formats from sketch, musical comedy, and radical mime also finding their roots.

The response from audiences to the festival has been tremendous. As we move forward, there’ll be more experimental routines that will find their way onto the stage and bigger productions will inevitably follow showing both Indian and International acts!

How would you describe the comedy scene in Melbourne, and does it bear any similarities/main differences to areas in India?

The comedy scene in Melbourne is very inspiring. It’s an honour to witness and be a part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. There’s so much to learn and so many practices which are unique to the city because the scene is so old and well established. Both, the audience and comedians are so good.

In both countries, the audience is very supportive coming out in huge numbers to support the show and its Comedians. It’s also been interesting to see how prominent of stand-up comedy is in Melbourne as it is in India, as opposed to other forms.

But the biggest difference would have to be how established the comedy scene in Melbourne is compared to India. In India, comedy shows are still quite young and we’re pretty much figuring out many things along the way.

What are the highlights of the Bengaluru Comedy Festival Showcase? 

The festival takes place at one venue which has two indoor rooms (80 & 200 seats respectively) and one outdoor stage (900 seats) making it the largest comedic gathering in India. The festival is widely focussed around creating a platform for young comedians to establish themselves over the next few years while also reaching out to the general public to get involved as we seek to grow our audience and introduce them to comedy.

In 2016 we started panel discussions across various topic and bringing Comedians together to debate them. The panel, ‘Women in Comedy’ and ‘Stand-up: India & Beyond’ were the highlights. We also get artists and their fans on stage in a panel for an ‘Ask me anything’ segment.

Another interesting aspect of the festival is the workshops we put together (both for stand-up and improvisation) for young comedians in the circuit.

Why should international students come see comedy?

So much goes on and off the stage to put on a production, it’s really a spectacle to see!

Comedy shows highlight and showcase unique stories and perfectives from a broad range of a Comedian’s, exploring their life experiences and backgrounds. These shows are incredibly honest spaces where many comedians express themselves openly in front of a live audience and share a unique connection with them. If you listen carefully, there are many lessons to take away.

Bengaluru Comedy Festival Showcase brings stories and perspectives from India’s burgeoning comedy scene. But beyond everything, come for the laughs!

 

The Bengaluru Comedy Festival Showcase will run throughout the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

For more information and to book tickets, visit the Bengaluru Comedy Festival Showcase website.

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