A few years ago, no one thought standup comedy could be a viable career, especially in the South. Things are changing now, and how! Chennai’s Bhargav Ramakrishnan aka Baggy, a standup comedian who’s made jokes his business for over a decade now, and Aravind SA (whose stand up special Madrasi Da is streaming on Amazon Prime), are launching a new comedy club called The Spotted Hyena in Phoenix Market City, Chennai. The launch festival will kick off today and go on till August 19 and will feature 34 comedians.
“We’ve been working on the club for three months, and the festival over the last month,” says Bhargav, who is also a theatre actor, producer and manager. He set up a business for artiste management called Half Boiled Inc recently. “Half Boiled Inc is launching The Spotted Hyena Club. We want it to be a space for artistes to jam and hone their craft. Setting up a space for performing artistes was a long-time dream of mine and it fell into place, thanks to our partner Club Crest, which has provided us the place. To be able to find partners who have space in a mall and to be able to monetise it requires long-term vision,” he says.
“At the festival, we’re not going to just have stand-up comedy, but also alternate forms of content. We will give artistes an opportunity to do solo specials, improv comedy shows, debate shows, and crowd work shows, where all jokes are made in interaction with the audience, and there’s also ‘comics on the spot’ where comedians will get a topic on stage and come up with jokes right there. We also have another concept show called ‘The Truth in the Tail’ where comics from Mumbai, who are married to each other and met on Tinder will share their story and will talk about dating in modern times.”
One of the shows lined up for the launch is called ‘Tight-Tens Of Chennai’ which will showcase the humour of the best comics from the city in two shows. “We will have seven comics in each show, who will display their best 10 minutes of the season. Almost everyone from the Chennai comedy fraternity will be at the show – we want to create an opportunity for our fraternity to share ideas, meet each other and create a platform to initiate communication. We also want to expose the audiences to different formats of comedy,” Bhargav explains.
The festival will see comics from across the country, including Sorabh Pant, Punya Arora, Kenny Sebastian and Urooj Ashfaq. Post the festival, Bhargav and Aravind have planned shows every weekend until December, after which they hope to have three to four shows a week.
Performing is one thing, managing artistes and putting a show together a different thing. “That’s something that I picked up along the way. We do have managers in the company whose expertise is project management. Since artistes aren’t necessarily known for executing things, we have a separate team that takes care of organising things,” he says.
Ask him what kind of change he wants to see in the desi comedy scene and he says, “We want to bring in the culture of people coming out and consuming more shows on a regular basis. That will be the most significant and impactful change, but it needs sustained effort over a long period of time,” says Bhargav.
As for the feasibility of a career in comedy now, he says, “I’ve always been in the performing arts. I foolishly jumped into it, but I was fortunate enough and I can say things are looking up. Touch wood!”
The Spotted Hyena Launch Festival
August 15, 2019
11:30 AM – The Half Boiled Improv Show ft. Naveen Richard
2:00 PM – Chennai Tight 10s
4:30 PM – Baggy LIVE!
7:00 PM – Stand up Prime Time ft Kenny, Sorabh and Rahul.
August 16, 2019
2:00 PM – The Big Comedy Debate with Kenny, Naveen, Rahul, Supriya, Baggy and Punya
4:30 PM – Crowdwork show with Rahul, Naveen, Supriya, Punya, Nivedita and Sorabh
7:00 PM – Stand up Prime Time ft Sonali, Naveen and SA
9:30 PM – Born on Mars by Sorabh Pant
August 17, 2019
11:30 AM – Comedy on the Spot with Baggy, Naveen, Kenny, Punya, Nivedita, Sorabh
2:00 PM – That’s What She Said with Sonali, Punya, Supriya, Nivedita and Syama
4:30 PM – True Tinder Tale with Rohan Desai and Shreemayee Das
7:00 PM – Stand up Prime Time ft Naveen, Alex and Sorabh
9:30 PM – Kenny Sebastian LIVE
August 18, 2019
11:30 AM – Chennai Tight 10s
2:00 PM – The Half Boiled Improv Show ft SA
4:30 PM – Stand up Prime Time with Kenny and Baggy Urooj