Surf through Amazon Prime Video’s tab 'Amazon Funnies', you will find all sorts of stand-up comedy acts.
What is interesting in the platform’s stand-up comedy content portfolio is that it includes shows in English, Hindi and Tamil.
While Hindi and English are leading the pack, there is enough content in Tamil on the platform, signalling that there is an audience that watch stand-up comic acts in the southern language.
Tickling your funny bone in Tamil
So, it wasn’t surprising when Amazon Prime Video came up with Comicstaan Tamil, the first regional expansion for the stand-up comic talent hunt show. In fact, it is the first regional stand-up reality show on digital.
According to Dhruv Sheth, Chief Operating Office of OML, an artist and event management company that created Comicstaan Tamil, an eight-episode series, and also the previous seasons of Comicstaan, they (Amazon Prime Video) started experimenting with Tamil after getting a lot of entries from Tamil comics for Comicstaan season one and two.
"Whatever has worked mainstream, now platforms are experimenting the same concept in the regional languages. Plus, the Tamil stand-up comedy scene is picking up. For Comicstaan Tamil, we got 700-800 entries. This shows that the comedy scene in Tamil Nadu is as budding as four years ago it was in Mumbai,” he said.
After Tamil, the makers of Comicstaan are looking to expand the show into more regional languages. The top choices are Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Punjabi and Bengali.
A reality for a real connect
But how can a reality show help?
Syama Harini, who participated in Comicstaan Tamil, said: “Some people over here (Tamil Nadu) had the perception for a long time that stand-up is only for an elite audience and only certain topics are covered. After Comicstaan Tamil, I think it's slowly breaking that assumption.”
Regional language comedy is at a nascent stage, be it in Tamil or any other language. According to industry estimates, if the live-comedy market in India was worth Rs 30 crore in 2018, regional comedy accounted for a third of that.
Also, when it comes to corporate shows, most prefer English stand-up comedians.
Hence, for a Tamil comedian to make his passion viable is to first get discovered by people and then get an audience for his/her shows.
“Contestants will become faces now (with Comicstaan Tamil). Once a comic is added to an audience’s roster, they automatically get more shows, more brand campaigns. They even get opportunities in films and TV. Like Karthik Kumar was offered a film. It is a different trajectory for comics doing acts in Tamil," said Sheth.
Cracking jokes in Tamil across the globe
Also, there are comics who are doing shows in Tamil or a combination of Tamil and English, not only in India but across the globe. This is why experts say that Tamil is leading the pack in the regional live-comedy space.
Sheth said that while the number of markets are limited in India for a Tamil stand-up artiste, there are many international markets where Tamil comedy is flourishing.
“A Hindi stand-up comedian can go to 100 markets but a Tamil comic has audience in markets like Singapore and the US,” he said.
Business is better
Sheth said that top comics like Aravind SA and Alexander Babu attract sizeable crowds in India as well.
“A few years back, when we were handling Aravind SA, one of the top comics who does his comic acts in English and Tamil, we were sold out for a 1,200-strong auditorium in 30 minutes. This is the sign of a maturing market, where even with high prices, tickets are selling out quickly,” said Sheth.
However, there is a slight difference between ticket prices in Tamil Nadu and other matured markets like Mumbai.
“The average ticket size for a live stand-up comedy show is around Rs 599. The ticket price in Chennai is in the range of Rs 399-Rs 499. But one major difference between the two markets is that Mumbai has venues with 700 seaters while Chennai has more venues that have a capacity of 1,200 seaters. So, economics don’t work out for larger venues. That being said, comics like Karthik Kumar, who does stand-up shows in Tamil, such comics are able to sell 1,000 tickets,” he added.
Be it Aravind SA or Karthik Kumar, both have their stand-up specials on Amazon Prime Video. In fact, Kumar is even a judge and a mentor on Comicstaan Tamil, which started airing on the OTT platform from September 11.
Even Saloni Gaur aka Nazma Aapi, a comedian and mimicry artiste, thinks that Comicstaan in Tamil will fuel the regional comedy segment.
“People will get to know more comedians from the South through the show. So, when things get back to normal (when coronavirus situation settles), people can even go and enjoy their live shows."
"I think it's a pretty good thing to start the show in regional languages, because I believe that a joke is best delivered in its original language or the language it was first thought in. For instance, if I think of a joke, then my first thought would be in Hindi because that's my mother tongue. And if I do the same joke in English, it would leave its essence to some extent.”