There are only two ways an open mic can go: you end up getting a sneak preview to the jokes that will make up the next special of the the hottest comic in the country or you’ll have to suffer through a sweaty open mic virgin trying out his best to add to the Whatsapp joke repository all our uncles seem to maintain. But if you can weather the potential second-hand embarrassment, it is the only way a comedy connoisseur should appreciate stand up. Why?
Shankar Chugani, local comic and a favourite to win on Amazon Prime’s Comicstaan, says there’s no other way. “Stand up comedy is meant to be enjoyed live,” he tells us outside a bustling cafe. Over his shoulder, chairs are laid out for an audience that is just about starting to trickle in. The comics watch them eagle-eyed (no one is faster at assessing crowd demographics now) as they mentally go over their sets. “The energy of the room is infectious and the comic responds to it. If the room’s energy isn’t matching the comic’s energy, they switch it up. That’s when they get that laugh. Experiencing a comic maximise those laughs per minute is way more enjoyable than watching a video alone at home.”
Here’s a weekly roadmap to Bangalore’s comic scene:
The Local in HRBR Layout, Kalyan Nagar is no joke for comics. Unlike Koramangala and Indiranagar, where pub density is high and customers thus dispersed, The Local promises a good crowd but an impatient one. “It’s like a hell room,” shudders Gautham Govindan, another rising local comic. This is not an audience that has necessarily come to watch stand-up comedy, and they are not afraid to show it. Comics battle the chinks of beer mugs, crunching of bar snacks, inattentive customers - or worse aggressively annoyed ones - to get a few laughs.
A favourite with local comics, Claytopia near Wipro Signal (oh, alright it’s on 80 foot road, you GMaps addicts) has now reopened, all spruced up. This is an open mic one can lounge at - eat some passable food, paint a ceramic frog you’ll forget to pick up later, and wander down to the indoor space that is reserved for laughs every Tuesday night. Unlike The Local, Claytopia’s space is secluded and enclosed, ensuring a captive audience for comics wanting to hit it big. “I have bombed there the most, but the place just has good vibes,” says Govindan.
Legacy Bangaloreans will remember Urban Solace for their chicken burgers with the succulent patties and owner Perry Menezes greeting everyone with a wide smile through the fog of smoke emerging from his trademark Esse cigarettes. Wind your way upstairs (after belting a couple of those burgers, of course), avoid the temptation of the open air rooftop offering a view of Ulsoor lake, and instead enter the warm room that has hosted everyone from Ooru darling Kanan Gill to the newest kid on the block.
Urban Solace on Annaswamy Mudaliar Road is one of the oldest supporters of stand up comedy in Bangalore and continues to epitomise the city’s #chillvibesonly ethos. Can you really call themselves a proper fan if you don’t come to pay your respects? Team Chugani, here’s a BPB exclusive: this is his favourite venue in the city because of it’s “loyal crowd that turns up week after week to encourage new performers and the art form itself”.
Eddy’s Cafe on 6th Main, Indiranagar, is new in town, but its owner (surprisingly not called Eddy) has supported the local arts by giving comics a venue to hold an open mic every week. This dog friendly cafe exudes #ThrowbackThursday charm - pet a pup on your way in, get breakfast for dinner, and find yourself face to face with the next big comic talent. Plus, the coziness of the room makes this feel more like your funniest friend entertaining guests at a house party, rather than a formal show with all the bells and whistles.
For every anti-nationalist screaming about the death of family values, put down your phone and take your family out for a cone (and some laughs). Mama Mia’s single scoop sized outlet on Double Road, Indiranagar isn’t just serving up frozen treats? A taster size room can fit 30 comedy fans every Friday for some wholesome fun. It’s breathing room only so get there early and reserve a spot for yourself and your sweet someone.
Show your local comedy club some love and treat yourself to some experienced talent. That Comedy Club, off JNC Road in Koramangala has at least two shows every weekend, with a good blend of local talent and names that have made it. This space, dedicated solely to stand up, is trying to build a scene so we don’t keep losing our best to big, bad Bombay. Here’s why we like it, but simply put, there’s nothing like watching stand up in a place built for it.
As the host strolls onto stage signalling the start of the open mic we’re at, Chugani leaves us with one last thought to ponder over: “A joke takes time to get to its final form. That takes hitting multiple open mics. If you catch an open mic and then watch the final joke at a show, you’ll be able to see the evolution of the joke. Maybe even find your next favourite comic.” Govindan agrees and adds, “Look, you’ll end up either laughing with a comic or at one. Either way, it’s a win-win”.
Getting There: Open mics are free to the public and generally begin at 8 pm, but check the Comedy Shots page for specific timings.
Sushmita Sundaram writes about food, culture, and discovering your city. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.
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