You may not believe that orange is the new black, but you’d better believe that stand-up comedy is taking India by storm! In a few short years, local stand-up comedians have taken over the Internet and rule the roost at some of the coolest clubs in the country. Of course everything’s forgiven, because they get us ROFL every time they grab a mike. Comedy Central fans, you must know these blokes. Either way, you should get to know them better. Here are some of the hottest comics in the country right now — the stand-up stars you should totally be queuing up to catch live!
Born in Dehradun and brought up in Nigeria, Das is a Harvard-trained actor; which itself sets him apart from the legions of engineers and finance professionals moonlighting as comedians in India. One of the early starters, his prolific career spans 35 plays, over 100 stand-up comedy performances, eight TV shows, two movies and six comedy specials. His debut bouquet of comedy specials at the India Habitat Centre — Brown Men Can’t Hump, Not for Members Only, Bored of The Things!, Who Let the Das Out?, Son of a Switch! and VIRagra — led on to greater things, including the launch of Weirdass Comedy, India’s first comedy consultancy. A standout supporting role in the 2011 sleeper hit Delhi Belly placed him firmly in the national spotlight. As the local stand-up scene’s very own Priyanka Chopra, Vir is the first Indian comedian to debut on Netflix, as well as take (discreet) pot-shots at Trump on American national television, on Conan O’Brien’s popular talk show. With more comedy specials and a web series in the pipeline, there’s no chance of this old bird slowing down.
Consistently ranked in lists of India’s top 10 comedians, Pant began creating funnies as a writer for TV in 2008. A collaboration with Vir Das (on his show Walking on Broken Das), followed by a three-year stint with the senior comic, took Pant’s career off on its solo journey. In 2011, he broke out with opening acts for Black Dog Easy Evenings, featuring A-list American comedians Wayne Brady and Rob Schneider. After releasing his debut novel, The Wednesday Soul in the same year, the Mumbai boy took his own philosophy to heart and traversed the length and breadth of the country — covering 17 cities with 250 stand-up acts. Renowned for his manic energy and easy-breezy urban desi style on stage, @hankypanty (his Twitter handle) is no stranger to milking every topic under the sun for laughs — from Indian news anchors and beef bans to fairness creams and arranged marriages, in no particular order. Sorabh Pant rocks Black Dog Easy Evenings in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam this month; on October 13, 14 and 15 respectively. Here are 5 compelling reasons to catch him in action.
This suburban Mumbai boy is everywhere — shaking a leg with Kangana Ranaut for a wicked spoof, hosting shows on television and infesting social media with his annoying (read ‘hilarious’), struggling-actor alter ego, Vicky Malhotra. Unlike Vicky though, Varun isn’t just a pretty face with a non-existent CV. As co-founder of comedy troupe Schitzengiggles (aka SnG Comedy), this industrious Sindhi-Maharashtrian bloke has established himself as a force to be reckoned with on India’s comedy scene. But it is his stand-up routine that has us constantly grinning and giggling — and we’ll admit to binge-watching his YouTube channel with material spanning Katrina Kaif, chemists, CCD, gym trainers and Indians on foreign trips. You can catch Varun live in Mumbai and Pune in November 2017, as he hosts some memorable Black Dog Easy Evenings and find out more about him here.
One of the youngest — and dare we say it, cutest — stand-up comedians on the circuit, ‘Kenny’ Sebastian travelled all over the country as a Navy brat, absorbing different cultures and their oddities, practicing to unleash his wry observations on stage. Even before his first gig (aged 19) on the IIT Mumbai stage, this industrious Capricorn was making films, directing shorts and producing music. Sebastian now has his own production studio called Super Human Studioz, where he writes and produces the content for his eponymous YouTube channel. If you haven’t already checked it out, we can tell you that his live audience acts — Chai Time with Kenny — are endearingly funny, even if they only involve him, a kettle, a tea cup and some Marie biscuits! In 2014, he hosted and wrote an entire season of a sketch comedy show titled The Living Room which aired on Comedy Central India in December. With his cross-country show — Don’t Be That Guy — on tour, this fab funnyman is living it up.
ANGAD SINGH RANYAL
This turbaned engineer and management graduate could be single-handedly responsible for good Dilli boys giving up their corporate jobs, for a stab at making people laugh for a living. They might not win the sort of laurels he has though, which includes being ranked by CNN-IBN as one of India’s top 20 stand-up comedians. The NMIMS alumnus has performed at India hottest stand-up venues (click here to find the best comedy clubs near you), and is a part of the East India Comedy show — where audiences have lapped up his snarky pearls of wisdom on Bollywood and its eccentric denizens. Ranyal’s gentle but sharp comedy is a terrific showcase of his observations on the daily life of us regular Indian folk and you can read all about why we’d watch him again and again right here.
A 49-year-old ex-suit-wearing CEO getting roomfuls of young Indians chortling mirthfully at his naughty observations on all things unique to middle class Indians? Yes, that’s Atul Khatri for you — half-Indian, half-Pakistani and fully hilarious! With a regular Indian accent and easy stage presence, Khatri followed up on a New Year resolution to give up his boring business life (read all about it here), and has since rocked over 400 shows and YouTube videos. He’s also the only Indian comedian to have performed in the Annual Hong Kong International Comedy Festival in 2014. Tackling Indo-Pak relations with as much drollness as husband-wife matters, this ‘senior citizen’ has all his rib-tickling bases covered. If you haven’t seen him perform live yet, can we ask what you’re waiting for?!
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