I accidentally uploaded this post before I finished the story. Here’s the rest of that night:
The second half of the open mic began with the host opening the floor up to anyone wanting to do a set. To me, this is the last straw. How can you open the floor up to people who’ve never done comedy before, and then ask them to do a 4 minute set? That’s like saying, “Hey, what you’ve been watching tonight is SUPER EASY. You don’t even need to PREPARE. Just come on up and be VERY FUNNY.” Fortunately, nobody took the MC on her offer, and it just created 5 minutes of awkwardness (which I would have much preferred to be added to my time, but whatever).
The second half of the show was filled with even more train wrecks. Two guys who have never done comedy before came up. The first, a freelance designer, told the joke that made me wonder at what point did he think it would be funny. The joke was:
People in Bombay don’t like people in Delhi. Why? What happens in Delhi? Rape. I was with in Delhi on a date with a girl from there, a guy comes up to me, robs me then takes the girl and proceeds to rape her. I’m scared in the corner, and when it’s all over, the girl comes back and I say “Are you OK?”. She says “I got off lucky, it was only one guy.”
I’ve never heard a story of rape told A) so glibly and B) on purpose, in front of an audience, for comedic purposes. The audience groaned at the end of that, proving just how tolerant they were. I’m assuming that story was made up, but if it wasn’t, he has a very strange way of handling traumatic experiences.
To confirm just how loving and warm that audience was, the next comic started telling a joke then finished and realized there was no punchline in the joke. He then said “I’m a comedy virgin”, which somehow got him an applause break.
Then, my anti-Delhi friend, Abhimanyu, comes on and does his act, including a joke about how Gujuratis all go to Bangkok and have sex with ladyboys (this is the kind of stereotypes that the people who wrote Outsourced missed). One of the frustrating parts of the evening is that most of the punchlines were delivered in Hindi. So, I’m going along with the whole premise and setup then “BOOM”. The audience is dying of laughter and I’m just thinking “I really wish I learned Hindi. Because I’m fairly confident that joke is not that funny.”
The last comedian of the night was introduced as a guy who works with Aditya Birla (the Andrew Carnegie of India). He starts with “As a chartered accountant, you’re probably expecting to hear economic jokes. I’m not going to tell you economic jokes because the intelligence level of the audience is too low. And it’s not your fault, you’ve been listening to comedian after comedian who is making you dumber and dumber.” Even I was a little annoyed about his opening thesis. I have a joke about the existential nature of nacho cheese! He also says “Unlike the other comedians on this show, I have a real job.” That is BS, because almost every comedian on the show was either an engineer, accountant, pharmacist, or me, a lowly scientist. Funnily enough, that was probably the most accomplished open mic I’ve ever been to.
So, after that, two comedians were selected: Ukelele Guy and Abhimanyu (who apparently brought everyone he knows to the show, including his mother). Ukelele Guy won (big surprise), which got him a guest spot at some later date on a weekend show. After the show, I went to thank the host and see if I could get on some other shows this week. She was really nice, and said “Too bad you didn’t win. We all really liked your act.” Nothing like feeling you had a good set and then having it ruined by the fact that you didn’t win.
Even though standup comedy in India is still in its infancy, I can see it developing into something pretty great. It was cool to see an open mic on a Wednesday drawing over 100 people. Admittedly, there are a billion people here, so anywhere you go is 100 people. As much as I dislike the corruption, mosquitoes, and heat of India, I do look forward to coming back and doing more comedy here. An audience who can listen to a fake rape story and still be polite is a real comedians dream. Which just goes to show how messed up comedian dreams are.