Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani talk LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse: It’s insane what has transpired on the show
The actors on playing laughter police in Amazon Prime’s new unscripted comedy show
It’s no laughing matter: holding back your laugh. The very thought of it makes me want to run. Indeed, for most people, suppressing their laughter is one of the most difficult things to do. Yet, it is this precise challenge 10 comedians have signed up for in LOL: Hasse Toh Phasse (releasing on Amazon Prime). For six hours, they were locked up in a room in each other’s (increasingly ticklish) company. The task was to make each other laugh without cracking up themselves.
The trailer screams mayhem: Gaurav Gera preening; Cyrus Broacha standing around with a stuffed bird, saying, “anybody wants a picture with my cock?” Standup comic Aakash Gupta admits he’s feeling winded. “Toh haske jaa na phir,” Sunil Grover deadpans. “Just laugh and leave.”
Adapted from the popular international format, LOL is hosted and judged by Boman Irani and Arshad Warsi. It’s a happy reunion for the actors—having done their own bit of comic jousting in Jolly LLB and the Munna Bhai series. We spoke to them about the crazy concept of LOL, setting up boundaries and rules, and why Boman’s Virus and Arshad’s Circuit would ace this show.
What did you guys make of LOL’s premise?
Boman: It was a great concept. I had a little worry about who the contestants were going to be. If they weren’t up to scratch, it could not work as well. The list of comedians they finally gave us was just outstanding. Of course, Arshad will insist the show is better because he’s the host.
Arshad: Absolutely (laughs). But yeah, it’s difficult for anyone who’s familiar with humour to keep a straight face. And these guys are pros at it. Most of them have a perpetual smile on their face. So I could tell we’re going to have a riot in the house. It’s insane what has transpired on the show.
While judging, how did you rule what passes for a laugh and what doesn’t
Arshad: It got tougher and tougher. These guys had come solidly prepared. None of them were smiling. That’s when our work got really difficult. We had to keep an eye on anybody who’s even mildly cracking.
Boman: It was also important that we enjoy the comedy too. We couldn’t just sit there looking into twenty cameras. At times there would be a call from the room for a likely offender. We used slow-motion and action replays for such situations.
In Documental (2016-), the Japanese iteration of this show, the level of crassness and shock humour are off the charts. Was it the same case here? Or were comedians told to hold back?
Arshad: Inherently, we Indians are not that kind of a people. Our humor has never been like Japanese or Western humour. So we had a basic (rule) of let’s not hurt anyone’s sentiments. And that’s what the comedians did.
Boman: They went for funniness and not outrageousness.
Name a character from your filmographies who would ace a format like this
Boman: Definitely not Dr. Ashthana (from Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.). He would go out in the first ten seconds. I think Virus from 3 Idiots would be perfect. He has absolutely no sense of humour
Arshad:: I think my character Circuit would crack it. Because he does the most outrageous things and does not even realize it.
You guys have been friends and collaborators for almost two decades. What do you think makes the other person such a comic whiz?
Boman: I’d let Arshad go first. If only he says something nice I will speak.
Arshad: I knew you would say that (laughs).
No, really, Boman is one of my most favourite people in the industry. He’s extremely dedicated to his work. Whatever you throw at him, he would take it to its limit. He takes his scripts and characters and goes really deep into them. And he does it better than anybody else. I have never lied so much in my life.
Boman: (thinks on it…)
Arshad: There’s a guy standing behind you with a gun.
Boman: Damn, now I have to say something nice.
I think Arshad is a large-hearted actor. He does not like to hog the show. Secondly, he isn’t always about comedy. It’s the other scenes—the emotional, sensitive stuff he does—that really make his characters. Once he lands those scenes, I am willing to laugh at anything else he does. His comedy is enhanced by his sensitivity.