A relatively new form of entertainment for urban Indians, stand-up comedy has gathered steam over the last decade and is now a legit night-out option. If you are looking to relax, unwind and savour the moment — with a dose of guffawing pleasure thrown in for good measure — you’ve got to know which talents will really make you laugh out loud. In Atul Khatri, Angad Singh Ranyal (here’s why you should check him out), Sorabh Pant and Varun Thakur (here’s everything you need to know about him) we have a handful of local favorites, but every good comic (including these guys) needs a stage. From Bengaluru to the capital, and on to amchi Mumbai, we’ve picked the places to check out when you want to enjoy an easy evening with some engaging comedy. These are the country’s top comedy clubs — go ahead and enter for laughs.
CANVAS LAUGH CLUB, MUMBAI
This is the mother lode, where it all began. Launched in 2010 as The Comedy Store — a sister concern of the London-based chain of clubs — the sprawling 24,000 square-foot space at Palladium in Lower Parel gave Mumbaikars somewhere chic to chortle their evenings away. Fledgling Indian comedians were given 10-minute slots between gigs by established comics like Russell Peters. That provided a stage for future stars like Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi, Sorabh Pant (find out which big Bollywood star adores him), Vir Das and Aditi Mittal to hone their ha-ha skills. When the joint venture with the UK company ended, the newly-named Canvas Laugh Club decided to work only with Indian comics; branching out into Hinglish comedy with Amit Tandon, Vaibhav Sethia, Nitin Gupta and Vipul Goyal. As competition blooms across the city and country, this early starter stays strong — discovering new talent via its houseful open mic nights.
TIP: Students get discounts every Thursday by showing their id cards.
THE HABITAT – COMEDY AND MUSIC CAFE, MUMBAI
Think you’re a hoot and looking for a stage to prove it? This cosy, fiercely indie space in Khar is just the right mix of modish and non-intimidating, to hone your funny bone without suffering a public humiliation in front of a Page 3-type crowd. Regulars at The Habitat — previously known as Tuning Fork — are addicted to its Thursday open mic nights, which have seen the likes of Anirban Dasgupta, Jaspreet Singh, Jeeya Sethi, Urooj Ashfaq and Raunaq Rajani leave the house in splits. From the travails of Trump to friendzoning troubles back home, there are shots on offer for anyone who grabs the microphone and takes their shot at fame. Better still, The Habitat doesn’t discriminate; on any given night, you’ll find amateur Hindi and Marathi poets and songsters taking to the stage to evoke genuine applause.
TIP: Ask for a couple of servings of the Tandoori Sweet Potato Fries and Bacon-Wrapped Pork Sausages from the menu to keep your belly company when it isn’t doubling up with laughter.
URBAN SOLACE – CAFE FOR THE SOUL, BENGALURU
Owner Perry Menzies’ beautiful cafe opposite Ulsoor Lake is an unpretentious, bohemian space dedicated to the arts and all manner of art lovers. If you haven’t already spent a lazy Sunday stuffing yourself silly on their full English breakfast, get that checked off your bucket list, before enlisting for their Book Lovers’ Club, Spiritual Sundays and many art events. That said, Bengaluru gets its biggest laughs on Wednesdays, with LOL @ Urban Solace — the city’s first and longest playing stand-up and open mic comedy night. The weekly event can be credited with giving the country bright, young, urbane comedians like Kanan Gill, Kenneth Sebastian, Sundeep Rao, Vamsidhar Bhogaraju and Biswa Kalyan Rath. Menzies also invites comedians from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, so you can expect a more eclectic range than the average Indian funnyman with a feel for trending local touchpoints.
TIP: To load up on laughs and food for the soul enough to last the week, also land up for Tuesdays with the Bard @ Urban Solace, where home-grown poets like Siddhanth Sundar and Pramod Shankar have always kept it fun and casual.
JAGRITI THEATRE, BENGALURU
A performance arts space founded by Arundhati and Jagdish Raja in tony Whitefield, Jagriti has had its finger on the city’s cultural pulse for over six years now. Its 200-seater theatre has seen performances by unique groups like UK-based The Handlebards, who travel on four bikes (carrying all their props and costumes) to perform Shakespeare’s works. Their strict no-latecomers policy holds true on open mic Saturday nights (technically, evenings — they start at 5 pm). Even with The Fat Chef next door, there’s no munching, guzzling and that sort of rudeness to cut in between the comics and the audience. Be a decent person and grab a drink before or after the howlarious performances.
TIP: Jagriti Theatre’s main squad includes a dance comedian! When Shunky Chugani isn’t micromanaging communications at the company and bashing out podcasts, you may catch him breaking into a jig that tickles the jugular. Keep your eyes peeled.
THE PEOPLE & CO, GURGAON
There’s nothing more unfunny than a comedian you can’t hear, which is why we heart The People & Co. at DLF Cyber City — the Canvas Laugh Club’s capital offering. Last we heard, it was the only club in the Delhi-NCR region dedicated to comedy with purpose-built acoustics. That it is a fine spirits and coffee bar with the kind of grub that puts Dilliwallahs in a jolly good mood even before the comedians take to the mike, only adds to its appeal. Savour some Black Dog scotch, pair it with some luscious lamb shanks and you’re free to convulse with laughter at the antics of Jeeveshu Ahluwalia, Vipul Goyal, Kunal Kamra, Aakash Gupta and Raghav Mandava.
TIP: The club’s exciting Tick Tocking Deal, valid only for lunch, bills customers by the minute (Rs. 15 per minute) plus taxes.
THE HIGH SPIRITS CAFE, PUNE
One of the country’s prime venues for indie music, The High Spirits Cafe in Pune has long been home to cheap alcohol and a rambunctious ambience that’s perfect for LOL nights. Pushing the envelope further, owner Khodu Irani and his minions hatch inventive schemes in addition to their Freakin’ Highlarious nights, which recently hosted a special ‘Girls Night Out’ edition, with comics like Jeeya Sethi, Pavitra Shetty, Prashasti Singh and Neeti Palta bringing the house down. They’ve also experimented with improvisational comedy with Daniel Fernandes. Unwind with some Black Dog and expect to be infinitely amused.
TIP: The best events happen on Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights, so make sure you’re elbowing you way to Da High.
HEART CUP COFFEE, HYDERABAD
The City of Nawabs likes a spicy sense of humour with dollops of easy giggles. And providing just that are Heart Cup Coffee’s outlets at Kondapur and Jubilee Hills. Determined to extend the cafe concept to eclectic live performances for all ages, the owners have splashed out on encouraging local talent, as well as known names from across India. The venues are also patronised by the Hyderabadass Comedy Club which has brought big names like Fernandes, Atul Khatri (here are 5 reasons to catch him in action ASAP), Nitin Gupta and Abish Mathew down to the city.
TIP: Ideal to settle in with your scotch and Chicken Parmesan, while you get your giggles at a stand-up show.
Image Credits: justdial.com; eventshigh.com; bookmyshow.com; lbb.in; jagrititheatre.com; dfordelhi.in; zomato.com
We can help you tell a story with the swagger of a true stand-up comedian — an art that is likely to land you every dinner party invitation and hot date on the near horizon!