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A few years ago it seemed as if the moment for stand-up comedy had arrived. By the end of 2017, stand-up comedians were on the cover of a magazine, signaling the coming of age of the industry.
The stand-up game attracted investors in the right places: on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, apart from increasing open mic schedules in venues across cities.
Two major companies Comedy Store and Canvas Laugh Club arrived on the scene and were game changers. But despite a heady start, the comic landscape has changed drastically today with stand-up comedians feeling the brunt of faltering payments and cancelled shows. Despite a good start, the India stand-up industry is still unorganized and uncertain for comics.
If you ask viral comic Kunal Kamra about the scene, he says that the audience isn't really 'invested' in the art form at the moment and that only ten or twenty tickets would sell if comics weren't on the internet promoting themselves. And this is despite the surge in open mics and more stand-ups coming in.
Last year, new-age Indian comedy's reputation came under strain when allegations under the #Me Too movement exposed a darker side of the circuit. Since then, the big three comedy groups: All India Bakchod, SNG Comedy and East India Comedy, have either disbanded or had founding members quit.
Jeeya Sethi, a leading comedian says, "It's a good thing that these-collectives have died because they mostly had men with no women being showcased."
Sethi adds saying that it isn't as easy as it sounds. "In a fledgling industry, a viral You Tube video isn't a sign that you've made it". Craft takes time.
Every comic who does two open mics calls himself a comedian. In my opinion, you have to do comedy for more than 20 years to be a comic.
It takes at least five years to find your voice".