Gone are the days when people had no other option than to go out clubbing or movies on Friday night or Saturday night (well because now people have to work Saturdays! Yes, they exist!). Now, there are these alternate sources of entertainment, which quite honestly are not alternate anymore. Be it theatre, poetry, storytelling or even standup comedy! Yes, who would have believed, that people would pay willingly to listen to someone else talk (not even sing) for so long! But as sudden and in trend as it is, these things have taken time, a lot of time! And if someone has contributed to its success, is Digital Platforms! In fact, Russel Peters, one of the biggest and global comedians attributes his success to YouTube! So, how has it unfolded! Let travel back in time!
A long long time ago, actually not that long ago, when stand up was niche form of entertainment, (which is a polite way of saying, not everyone considered it as entertainment) there were “struggling” comics doing their thing. Grinding it out to keep this art alive. This art, which has been a part of every culture since perhaps the start of time. Be it the kingdoms that terms them as “vidhushak” or the Royal entertainers or even the “hasya kavis”; which translates to comedic/satirical poets, stand up commentary was the integral part of the entertainment since a very long time, until it trickled down and was limited to late-night shows and unnecessary irrelevant guest appearances in movies. But then came the internet, and with it came YouTube!
The success of YouTube meant that people were able to consume content in utmost convenience and for free free free! This also meant that an artist in Mumbai could reach everyone around the world! And so artists like Russell Peters became stars. Comedians started getting the credit that was due! All genres started finding their space and audiences. From anecdotal to observational, to satirical or even improv, everyone had audiences. Of course, some more than the others, but at least they had a platform. Similarly, Indian stand up scenes came to the forefront. From the AIB folks to Zakhir Khan and more recently Abhishek Upmanyu, Karunesh Talwar, Kaneez Surka and a lot more coming up with good content. Now even the audience had options, too much sometimes. Be it regional material or even edgy material like those of Kunal Kamara and AIB roast (which is insult comedy, a very old form of comedy popular globally), every material started getting its audience. Of course, some sentiments were hurt and radical consequences came as a gift package for these comedians. But on a bright side, more people came to know about it, even people who were not on the digital platforms. After all, everyone wanted to know what the fuss is about!
Now, although artists had started monetizing their content online, there was a small side effect to the online boom! No one would come to live stand-up events. So, artists started doing gigs especially for the live shows and gave only the small content bites online. Tried and tested, this move was a success as expected and more people started showing up for the live shows. So much so that now, the other OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon producing stand up special with these comedians. As a consumer myself, it feels so good to see an Indian stand up special. Man, were we waiting for this! What’s more! Now other “niche” forms like story-telling and poetry have adopted this model and are succeeding too!
What is interesting and noteworthy is that now, there are conversations, it’s not only about entertainment, it’s about social commentary! Which many believe is ultimately the end objective of the standup art!
All in all, content can bridge gaps, it can create opportunities, it can bring about a change, and it can make you laugh, cry or just leave you with a thought. Basically, content is mightier than the sword! (I know, its pen. Move on!)
But as important it is for the content to be good, it’s is also important to know how to leverage this content!