Comicstaan Winner Nishant Suri: Cannot pull a Nanette in India right now
Delhi comic Nishant Suri, who has won the first season of Amazon Prime Video's Comicstaan, predicts a long fight before Indian comedy goes global.
Amazon Prime Video's Comicstaan, which concluded after nine rollicking episodes, introduced a formidable crop of comic talents from across India. Mentored by well-established, first generation comics like Tanmay Bhatt, Kenny Sebastian and Kaneez Surka, these contestants redefined the stand-up landscape in India and stretched the possibilities between set-up and punchline. Emerging as the winner of Comicstaan Season 1 is Army kid-turned-engineer-turned-
"Growing up, I had very little interest in comedy. In college, I had seen the videos of Russell Peters and George Carlin, but that was about it. My comedy was not influenced by anyone when I started out; it grew organically. I discovered International comedy recently, which I guess will find its way into my style," Nishant shared.
Among the many factors working in his favour, Nishant's use of a bilingual patter - which swam between everyday English and high-pitched Hindi - really set him apart in the show. "That's how we speak, right? Urban North Indians have an instinctive way of switching between English and Hindi. Also, when my punchlines are in Hindi, I always get a slightly better reaction. It has a lot to do with my experience with the Delhi-Noida crowd."
What singles out Nishant's generation of stand-up comics - from, say, their bawdy counterparts on TV - is the self-aware, politically conscious way of approaching comedy.
"TV as a medium is very restrictive; there are a lot of subjects you cannot talk about. The web space, where most of us have gained popularity, is much more free. Initially, in your career, you take the low-hanging fruit of cracking easy jokes - which is what the Noida joke is; I can make fun of crime and violence in Noida and get away with it. After Comicstaan, I want to speak about subjects that are more serious and relevant."
But isn't the urge of cracking relevant jokes restricted by fear, considering the frequency of FIRs being filed against stand-up comics? "There's a little fear, yes. Everyone is offended by everything. It's a matter of when and not why. A comic was threatened for cracking a joke on bullets, another was sent death-threats for joking about baniyas. It's only a matter of time when someone gets offended by my material. Like Anirban (Dasgupta) said in his Amazon special, 'If a mob is coming at you, you cannot throw the constitution at them."
Despite the cultural situation in India, does Nishant see a maturity in the audience at large? Can an Indian stand-up comic pull something like Hannah Gadsby's Nanette and be appreciated for it?
"Right now I don't think an Indian comic can pull a Nanette or the audience is matured enough to appreciate it. There is a small section that is ready, but on a broader scale, audiences don't react encouragingly to intelligent or reflective humour. So far, it's only the toilet jokes and hookah jokes and Noida jokes that keep them laughing. Perhaps 15-20 years later, someone can try a Nanette in India. It'll take time."