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Comedy takes centrestage

It promises to be an action-packed festival with acts across genres, international celebrities and even some traditional folk art forms. The first edition of Stage42, which kicks off this month and spills over to March as well, promises all this and more, with over 150 performances at 30 venues in seven cities. Organised by Only Much Louder (OML), the team behind the hugely popular indie music festival NH7 Weekender, Stage42 is looking to tap into India’s growing appetite for stand-up comedy, theatre, and of course, original, independent music. “Most people know us for NH7 but that’s restricted to one weekend, in one city, and one genre. We’ve been wanting to do something with artistes across genres and also explore performance spaces, from huge auditoriums to small cafes,” says Arjun S Ravi, co-founder of NH7.

The market for alternative entertainment beyond cinema, theatre and just “hanging out” is growing and Stage42 is a reflection of this, believes the OML team. The performances chosen are based on what OML believes fans would like to watch, and which would engage them enough to want more of it. Stage42, the organisers hope, will strengthen the ecosystem of alternative culture.

The schedule is heavy on stand-up comedy, from global names Russell Peters and Bill Burr to homegrown talent AIB and Papa CJ. “English language stand-up comedy has taken off only in the last three years but its growth has been incendiary. There are a lot of of homegrown comics doing different things from sketches to.. well I’m not sure about roasts any more,” Ravi says, laughing, though he does not think the recent controversy over AIB’s insult comedy act would affect the shows. “If anything, I think it has piqued the curiosity of people,” he says.

Just in case you don’t manage to make it for the shows that you wanted to go for, you can try your luck at the next edition of Stage42, which will take place later this year.

The must-watch list:

Russell Peters
One of the biggest draws would be Russell Peters, the Indian-origin Canadian stand-up comic who has performed across the globe. This time, he comes with his Almost Famous World Tour, with new material about the funny man’s latest take on some of his favourite communities, jobs he can understand, cell phones, dating and his trademark improv with the audience. He will be performing in five cities, with two shows in Mumbai. “We’re so dedicated to being cheap for so long that Indian people actually created the number zero,” he says in the promo. That should be the taste of things to come.

When & Where: Mumbai (February 11 & 12), Delhi (February 14), Hyderabad (February 17), Chennai (February 19), Bengaluru (February 21)

Bill Burr
The lucky folks in Mumbai will have a chance to see acerbic American comedian Bill Burr in action when he performs live in the city as part of Stage42. Burr has been part of Chappelle’s Show, and has since been a regular on the late night shows of David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon. He had a role in in popular TV series Breaking Bad, which Burr is a big fan of. He also has a weekly podcast, where he rants about anything and everything. The show in Mumbai will be Burr’s first in India. “My performance will consist of brand new material that I’ve written since my last stand up special. I’ve never been to India so I wouldn’t try to describe any India-specific bit or have an opinion until I’d at least experienced something while in the country,” Burr says.

Where & when: Mumbai, February 9

Their “roast” of Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh might have landed them in hot water but it has also made AIB a household name. The comedy collective of Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya shot to fame with their video on Alia Bhatt starring herself, and released on YouTube, which garnered millions of views. Their “roast” too got instant fame, at least till it was taken down. They will be performing in five cities.

Where & when: Pune (March 7), Delhi (March 14), Kolkata (March 21), Bengaluru (March 26), Mumbai (March 22)

The Empire
Stand-up comedian and scriptwriter Anuvab Pal’s new show, “The Empire”, is personally recommended by OML’s Ravi. A history lesson unlike any other, Pal looks at various sketches, episodes and characters in his role as a cowardly man with a British hangover.

Where & When: Bengaluru (February 13), Delhi (February 14), Mumbai (February 22), Kolkata (February 27), Pune (March 1)

Passes for all shows available on www.insider.in, a curated events portal also run by Only Much Louder


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