Saturday, 16 March 2013

Comedy Central In Delhi: A Review

It's been a long time since I donned by Judgey-Cap and judged a band or artist or event. I like how people sometimes leave heated comments on my blog-reviews of things, as though I'm obliged to answer to some mighty Review-Overlord before posting my views; this is a personal blog, people, if you find my criticism totally biased or wildly inappropriate, please mail your complaints to P.O. BOX 921-NOBODY-CARES. As per usual, if you have been following the typical trajectory of my blog post reviews, I shall begin with a riveting prologue.

It was a warm Saturday afternoon. It had been one of those slow humid weeks during which one desires to do nothing but spend time in the most offensively unproductive ways. I had impulsively booked a ticket at the beginning of the month for this Saturday to Comedy Central's first show in Delhi - Sugar Sammy Live. I didn't know who Sugar Sammy was, or why he had such a dodgy stage name, but I love stand-up comedy, and I love Comedy Central, so that was that.

Decided I had to do two things before leaving: 1. buy some stationery for college work 2. get my email-ticket for the show printed for entry. I had one hour. I got the first part done but the second task proved tedious: my landlord's computer had chosen today of all days to be an unresponsive piece of shit and shut down on its own (because we all know how electronic things secretly hate me).

So I took a rickshaw to the market to find a cyber cafe. Today also happened to be special-flea-market day, so there's lots of traffic and the roads are teeming with people. It's already 6 - I was supposed to be at the metro station on my way to the show at 6. I stop every five minutes and ask for directions to a cyber cafe, to no avail. I finally find one, it's almost 6.30. I sit down and try to log on, and Gmail suddenly goes all 'SECURITY CHECK' on me and asks me to enter my recovery email address. Simple enough right? I enter my email address, and it rejects it, and I can't access my ticket.


It's 6.30. I finally type out my email address with a typo, and it accepts. I don't even-

So I print it out and I'm finally on the way to the metro station in my rickshaw. It's a little past 6.30, ok maybe I can still make it on time. Suddenly I hear a loud thwack in the rickshaw. I don't pay much attention to it, because I live in India, and things on the road here make unpleasant noises all the time. But I look down and I find YELLOW GOO all over my seat. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

It finally dawns on me as I see a motorbike speed away that some evil spawn of satan had thrown an egg into my rickshaw and it had exploded an inch away from me and the back of my dress was all eggy now. I'm mumbling 'Are you fucking kidding me' as I try to extract the eggshell from my clothes. A friend had warned me about the people with the eggs - it's an old Holi custom here - so this whole week is going to be war, and I need to make a trip to the egg section of the supermarket myself. At the station, there's another mix-up as I take the wrong metro train to somewhere else, and have to run back and take the other one, and all along I'm like, this day just keeps getting better and better. I finally get to my destination's station and hop into an auto and tell him 'the FICCI Auditorium' and we're driving and he doesn't know where it is, and I'm all, NNNNNGGGGGG, until finally he figures out where I'm supposed to go. 'Oh don't you know anything, madam, it is not F-I-C-C-I,' he corrects me, smugly, 'it is Fikki auditorium!' (it seems auto guys aren't big on abbreviations.)

Anyway, screw-ups and egg attacks and all, I arrive at the venue at 7.45pm. The show was meant to start at 7.30. But for some awesome reason they decided to postpone it to 8, and I have time to make a detour to the washroom and get the egg out of my clothes. Before Samir Khullar (Canadian-bred Sugar Sammy's real name) took the stage, we were treated to the extremely likable not to mention hilarious Mumbai based comedian Tanmay Bhat. I tried to recreate some of his jokes on this post but really, you cannot do justice to good comic material in a review, it's like trying to type out a tune of a song. Suffice it to say that he was outrageously funny, and I would love to attend a show of his own.

I have to say, though, I was perhaps expecting too much when I went to watch Sugar Sammy - firstly, because Comedy Central, the people who brought us Jon Stewart of the Daily Show (aka the love of my life), were literally hosting his act, and secondly, he's got a series of impressive accolades to his name. You could see he was nervous in the first half of the show. He started warming up with some jokes that he'd already used, word for word, in previous acts, which annoyed me because I'd already heard them on YouTube. I remember chuckling appreciatively at the most, and then not really laughing at all as he rehashed the geographical-significance-of-the-penis joke that should have been patented by Russell Peters.

But the show was for two hours, so I was hopeful. There were some good moments, like that time he picked on Valerie from the audience, from Kentucky, who Sammy thought seemed outraged at having been picked on. 'I'm an American citizen goddammit!' he mimicked. And that time he made a reference to Boyz 2 Men and that one guy in the band whose job it was to say 'hey, baby, you've hurt me real bad, now listen to this song...' at the beginning of the song and we'd never hear from him again. He picked on audience members a lot, about their names, the places they came from - and it seemed that that was mostly what his comic material was made of, he had nothing else. When he didn't have that, he'd revert to a random race or sex joke that was a paler construct of a Russell Peters joke.

'Anybody from outside the country here?' he asked. I clapped at him, bracing myself for some rich humour at my expense. 'Oh Sri Lanka! That's great.. and what's your name? Shifani? That's a beautiful name,' and he made a joke about there being no electricity in Sri Lanka, stalled a bit, realized he didn't have anything else, and quickly switched gears and moved on to some anecdote about South Africa and AIDS. He asked for any Muslims in the audience later on, and I clapped again, and he made a light joke about how I'm probably *in secret voice* not allowed to be here, and how Muslim girls think you're married to them after talking to you for five minutes, then one about the 'talaq-talaq-talaq' custom and then how he could never date a Muslim girl because they want you to raise their kids Muslim - and he'd be damn suspicious of his son if his name was Mohamed, 'daddy I want batteries!' 'what the fuck for? show me your passport!' Save for the last joke, which was pretty funny, I was disappointed. I was looking forward to being made fun of by some bigshot comedian, but then to be fair, 'Sri Lankan Muslim girl in Delhi' was perhaps way too obscure a demographic to easily poke fun at.

Sammy picks on race and sex, and those are the ideal topics to pick on when you're a comedian because everyone in your audience can relate - and laugh - but where Russell Peters has creatively-constructed original material, Sammy falls short (at least today). We've already heard enough penis jokes and jokes about Indian parents and arranged marriages - we want to hear new material now. I also felt like he wasn't self-deprecating enough, because self-deprecating humour, something Tanmay and Russell had enough of in their acts, is what makes a comedian instantly likable on stage. At some point in the second half of the act, I got bored and my mind wandered, as in, there were little gaps of stagnancy in the act as opposed to consecutive hit-after-hit, which would have been ideal. Where Russell has more material, more structure for that material and therefore hits the nail straight on the head, Sammy seemed to be searching for material, almost seeming to have not prepared anything solid beforehand and picking random anecdotes from here and there the way an ordinary funny guy would do around the water cooler at work - which though is still funny, lacks the heightened humour and precision of the ideal stand-up act.  He could also benefit from making more use of his impressions - for example, one thing that is so freaking hilarious about Russell's acts, are his impressions of Indian parents, the pure comedy in his facial expression alone. I feel like Sammy could be really, really funny - if only he put some effort into it. Also, I keep comparing him to Russell Peters. Why? Probably because Sammy is yet to carve out a niche distinctly his own, to create his own unique trademark as a comedian, the same way that certain Indian marriage/parents jokes are Russell's trademark.

Anyway, Sugar Sammy's a comedian, and I have only love and support for all comedians, mediocre or not. Plus one would assume they only get funnier with age and experience. Here's to hoping this is the first of many Comedy Central stand-ups I have the honour of attending and lol'ing at. And hopefully next time I won't have eggshell on my clothes on arrival. 

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