For those who enjoy stand up comedy, Comicstaan 3 makes amusing viewing, enough to lift the monsoon gloom, applauds Deepa Gahlot.
It's risky to be a stand-up comic these days, and that has taken some of the sting out of comedy. So Comicstaan Season 3 has to begin with a disclaimer because who knows what will offend whom?
Comedians don't just get banned now, there is a very real chance of landing up in jail.
Stand-up comedy is a relatively new form in India, and has become popular quite fast, with some of the top comedians filling up large venues.
In intimate spaces like pubs and clubs, it is a regular entertainment option.
Amazon Prime Video cashed in on the novelty and the growing trend of stand-up comedy to launch a reality show Comicstaan (in 2018) to pick India's best stand-up comedian.
The format with judges, mentors, audiences scoring participants trying out different formats -- improv, sketch, anecdotal, and so on -- and vying for a Rs 10 lakh prize worked because the show became Amazon's most watched.
This, in spite of the fact that stand-up works best as a live show that allows the performer to interact with the audience and draw energy from a space.
Still, the Indian audience is so hungry for laughs that loud, crude comedy shows with judges emitting fake, almost hysterical laughter -- remember Archana Puran Singh, Shekhar Suman, Navjot Singh Sidhu in splits even when the gags were most unfunny? -- got high ratings.
In comparison, Comicstaan has the look of a college contest, mainly because the contestants and audience are young, and the mentors and judges always polite and encouraging, even when they are critical of a performance.
That could be because the stand-up scene is still in a friendly zone, where competition is not murderously fierce, and comedians support one another and appear on each other’s shows.
Also, the heartening thing is that what was a guy thing, what with excess profanity and sexual content, now has more women joining in, and they can go toe-to-toe with the men, without resorting to cheap cracks at body parts and regional stereotype.
The success of Comicstaan led to a Season 3, with eight hour-long episodes hosted by Abish Mathew and Kusha Kapila, eight contestants, top draw mentors and judges.
Considering it takes experience, observation, writing and performance skills for an enjoyable comedy act -- audiences may laugh politely but it is obvious that some jokes land better than others -- the contestants in this season were well-prepared with sharp timing and some really witty sets.
Good to see three young women Gurleen Pannu, Pavitra Shetty and Shriya Priyam in the group with Aman Jotwani, Adesh Nichit, Shamik Chakrabarti, Natiq Hassan and Aashish Solanki.
It is not possible to be funny all through, but the contestants excelled at improv (mentor Aadar Malik) and managed the topical theme without stepping over landmines; mentor Sapan Verma set the tone with his hilarious take on plastic bags that everyone could relate to and chuckle at. ('In India, we don't have single-use plastic bags').
Even the roasts (mentor Rohan Joshi) were cute and good-natured ribbing.
Very infrequently were the jokes vulgar or below the belt.
The other mentors Anu Menon, Rahul Subramanian, Prashanti Singh and Kanan Gill and the judges Kenny Sebastian, Neeti Palta, Sumukhi Suresh and Zakir Khan corrected the participants' mistakes with kindness, and roasted one of the roasters in an innovative way.
They all showed that making fun of someone or correcting them need not be hurtful. If done well, even the victim of a roast can enjoy it without feeling humiliated.
Comicstaan 3 has some of the best contestants so far, and Gurleen Pannu, the girl from Chandigarh was fearless and quick-witted. The others were super confident too, always ready with smart comebacks.
Even a fumble was converted into a joke.
For those who enjoy stand up comedy, this season makes amusing viewing, enough to lift the monsoon gloom.
And when everything outside seems to be going down the drain, it may not be love, but laughter that keeps us alive.
Comicstaan 3 streams on Amazon Prime Video.