It might be because laughter is the best medicine or because a smile is the best curve to put on your face that a good showering of humour is so appreciated. Be it mushrooming comedy platforms or emerging comic artists, rib tickling instances or wittily profound deliberations, the scenario is rosy for either. Because everyone has come to love a good laugh, the comedy scene is booming like never before. So if you are someone seeking some relaxation and refreshmnet in humour, to tide away over life or trudge along through it, here are the top comedians in the stand up comedy circuit in India you can turn to if you indeed want to be left in splits-
Sakht Launda Zakir Khan is one of those names that is instantly recognised in the stand up comedy circuit in India. He might not be the one to have initiated stand up comedy in the country but his exploits on mic sure helped usher in a new wave in the comic scene on stage.
There’s something about Zakir Khan that renders him instantly endearing to the masses. With a repertoire of anecdotes that are very commonplace and therefore strike a chord with the audience and his superb comic timing that has this flair for inciting laughs, Khan has established himself as a supreme force to be reckoned with when it comes to new age Indian comedy.
Perhaps it is his narratives that draw from facets of everyday life and existence that help in making his acts particularly impactful- both in delivering humour and in striking the minds. Unlike others comedians in the circuit though, Khan chose to stick to his funnyman avatar and reserved his sarcasm to innocent, laughable moments rather than doing comedy to tickle consciences. Comedy for Khan seems to still remain what it was in essence- fun and entertaining, and a medium for just letting the worries of the world slip off for a little while.
Hardly a decade old in the genre of comedy, Karunesh Talwar is a fan favorite when it comes to delivering all the tickles with the mere power of words. Rampant antics and expletives aren’t the proforma for this young gun who want his writings to stand out in his performances. And it does. With a straight face and without even as much as a grimace, Talwar manages in having people rolling over with laughter by his choice of what he likes to term a ‘conversation’. With perfectly acted out scripts that don’t mince words in conveying his opinion, Karunesh also amazes with his diction and flair for continuing incessantly, pausing only at just the right moments he knows is the critical receptacle for the audience’s laughter- and assent.
Biswa Kalyan Rath
Those of you who are regular content surfers on the web will know Biswa Kalyan Rath from his Pretentious Movie Reviews (PMR). A show that totally nailed it when it came to accurately reviewing gimcrack Bollywood movies, PMR did wonders for Rath and his partner in crime, er- review, Kanan Gill. Particularly for Rath, the still 20- something artiste, this venture into comedy was a gamble that paid off well. Even in his seemingly stoic demeanour, Biswa is very much the Mast Aadmi that he professes to be in his comic pursuits.
The stand up comedy scene of India would indeed be incomplete if we overlook Biswa’s exploits on the mic, what with his observation and insights laced skits serving you just the appropriate dose of raw humour, yet without him ever being loud and crude. Rath is also one among those names that deliver with their content and is a better known name off stage as well. It might be the potential he unleashes even in ordinary instances or it might even be the effortless ease at being a presentable comedian that grants Biswa Kalyan Rath a place among the best comedians ruling the stand up comedy circuit in India.
Kenny Sebastian is perhaps one of the first stand up comedians from the country who introduced this very wayward method of doing humour- drawing on mundanely irritating real life happenings to mould them into something funny enough to lose some sanity over than just losing your mind. Kenny’s style of doing comedy is also unique from the rest of the lot- straight to your face, defined and rarely without the factor of relatability that he so counts on to deliver the laughs. Musically inclined and cinematically enriched, Kenny Sebastian’s comic riots are exactly what they are intended to be- entertaining and hilarious which explain his stance as one of the most popular names in the genre of stand up comedy in India.
When it comes to being the absolute best in business, you can’t really miss out Sorabh Pant. With a brand of humour that is unusual and hard hitting, yet funny nonetheless, it isn’t surprising that Pant has been lauded as one of India’s top comedians by Times of India, Khaleej Times and others. Starting out with another finer comic in the scene, Sorabh Pant comes up with acts that dwell on the Indian sensibility and naturally poke fun at the prevailing state of affairs. Needless to say, his is one name that resonates deep sounding laughters among India’s emerging comedy understanding audience.
Ranked among the top 10 comedians of India by The Times of India in 2012 and enlisted by CNN-IBN as being among the Top 30 Witty, Intelligent, and Incredibly Fun Indian Women to follow on Twitter, Aditi Mittal’s reputation as comic artist in India is apparent. An invitee for BBC’s prestigious 100 Women Conference in London in 2013, this ‘Indian trailblazer’s cutting edge humor framed by personal observations has made her a prominent name in the country’s stand up comedy circuit.
Mittal might have been the first among women in India to venture into comedy but she is by no means lesser than any of the others in this list when it comes to mastering the tricks of the trade. Flawlessly witty and socially hard hitting, Aditi Mittal comes up with acts that aren’t just fodder for the laughs; they are also expressions for (and of) the common Indian woman.
He might be a name more encountered in Bollywood now but for someone who started out as a stand up comic and continues to tickle funny bones even after a decade and a half. Named one of Variety magazine’s “10 Comics to Watch for” in 2017, Das’ polished jokes have an undertone of riding on the subtleties to put points forth and across. Also a musician outside of being an actor and comic, Vir Das has been redefining the stand up comedy circuit in India from the time we aren’t even sure it existed!
If you think perfect comic timing and observational comedy does not amke anyone a fine comedian then you can’t be expecting much from Abhishek Upamanyu. But people who have seen the guy in action will agree equivocally that even in his routine, Upamanyu is at least a tad different from the rest. True, everyone does commonplace humour but still not everyone can elicit the laughs because for comedy to be effective, scripting is as essential as the content. And this is perhaps where Abhishek Upamanyu scores over other names that continue to dot India’s stand up comedy scene. With cleverly thought out responses to unflattering situations, the young Delhi boy counts on his delivery parlance and instantaneous flair to absolutely kill it in front of the mic every single time.
Yet another reason to laud Pretentious Movie Reviews is the emergence of stand up comic Kanan Gill. Witty and with a spark in his persona that translates effectively into his on stage exploits, Gill dishes out content that are fresh and painstakingly put up together. Gill weaves such newness even in the standard comic fare that revolves around relatable commonplace inferences that you never feel this is something you have been served before. Insanely popular among femme fatales specifically, because comic timing apart but man he’s cute! That however does not take anything away from the finesse this man brings in to his performance and evoke pure, jolly laughter in us all. Pure charm!
Unapologetically funny and a breakthrough presence in the stand up comedy circuit in India, Abish Mathew packs on a bunch of laughs every time he walks on stage with his affable personality and energy. A feature in the 2016 list of Forbes 30 under 30, Mathew is among the better recognised faces in comedy and vibes with his audience in an effervescent, almost endearing way.
Comedy’s controversy czar, Kunal Kamra’s allusive free un- allegories emphasise his (and in this case, ours) alliterative ability. His definitive claim to fame might be just a couple of years old but within this span, Kamra has managed to establish himself as a fearless and incisive comedian with his constant critique of the present day polity (alliteration again!). One of the few in the circuit who evokes sarcasm in satire to such measure, Kamra’s inclination for political comedy might have put him in a a rut but it has also manifested instantly in the public conscience as a man who would blatantly speak it out if he so desires.
Perhaps what makes Kamra a more ‘responsible’ comedian than others in the mix is how he chose to derive humour or rather how he implanted wit in his ramblings of the government. For him, comedy isn’t just relaxation, it’s as much about being aware of society and stuff, as it is about brouhaha and banter. Given his past as a guy in advertising, it’s however not surprising that Kamra comes up with such impactful jargon in voicing his disapproval that appeals immediately to his audience who might also be the same willing to yield revolutionary, but minus the exaggerated concern.
Whether it be acing musings of everyday life, personal innuendos or beyond standard political references, funnyman Abijit Ganguly is another of the names that currently matter in the stand up comedy circuit in India. Almost a decade later, still active and still invoking his self- depreciating humor to drive home the laughs, Ganguly relies on his ‘Bengali guy from Delhi’ mismatch to tackle mundane everyday problems with a zesty approach.
Another comedienne we found worthy of mention in the list of artists who has the potential to make it big with wit and humour is Urooj Ashfaq. Young and dynamic, this 22 year old Bombay girl is already taking the humour enthusiasts by storm ever since she ventured into the funny scene in the country. With her natural verve for jovialness and ability to conjure up laughs, Ashfaq sure has all it takes to be among the top comedians who would be ruling the stand up comedy circuit in India in the coming years.