Amazon Prime Video original Comicstaan 2 is set to premiere on July 12. Hosted by Abish Mathew and Urooj Ashfaq, the stand-up comedy reality series will have Zakir Khan, Sumukhi Suresh, Neeti Patla, Kanan Gill, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Kaneez Surkha and Kenny Sebastian as the judges.
Ex-IITian Biswa Kalyan Rath rose to fame with his stand-up acts in Bangalore and his hilarious ‘Pretentious Movie Reviews’, a series he used to do with co-judge Kanan Gill. The funnyman recently ventured into writing fiction having penned two seasons of acclaimed web series Laakhon Mein Ek.
Ahead of the release of Comicstaan 2, Biswa sat down for an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com about the new season, mentoring newcomers, his writing stint and why comedy is still considered a risky career option.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q. How was the experience of turning a judge for the second time?
Honestly, it was a little different. I was also slightly better at giving scores this time, much more confident. Last time, I didn’t even know what to say after the performances. This time, I even kept a notebook with me. It was an improved experience. Also, it was really amazing to see the comedians grow. To see them excel when put under pressure was surprising.
Q. Last season you trained the contestants in anecdotal comedy. Why did you choose another genre this year?
I think Zakir is much better a mentor for anecdotal comedy. As for me, I mentored the contestants in the ‘comedy of terrors’ genre. It was really tough and a totally terror episode. We did a couple of open mics with these participants but realised that nothing was working. We were so terrified before the episode that we actually created a chant and prayed to the comedy god. But overall it went great and it also helped me grow as a performer and mentor. To recognise the strength and weakness of 10 people and then moulding them without even knowing what topic they would get was quite something.
Q. Has life changed after being part of Comicstaan?
My friends share pictures of Comicstaan posters and billboards, even on the Delhi Metro. They have now developed a little more respect for me. You might do a lot of things on the internet, but only when there’s a physical recognition like this, they feel like you have finally arrived.
Q. You recently surprised all by penning serious drama with Laakhon Mein Ek. Did you enjoy it more than comedy?
I enjoy both equally. I always wanted to be a writer but I didn’t want to be emotionally vulnerable. So as a defense, I started doing comedy. But writing the two seasons of Laakhon Mein Ek has made me learn so much. And I can even incorporate those learnings into comedy. It has also helped me work better with a group of people.
Pesh hai #Comicstaan2 ka trailer. Naye jokes, format wahi kyunki #JokeKarnaKoiMazaakNahi @PrimeVideoIN@RougeAF @abishmathew @knowkenny @kaneezsurka @kalyanrath @KananGill @Zakirism @sumukhisuresh @neetipalta pic.twitter.com/5xkEDbjWNE
— Comicstaan (@comicstaan) June 26, 2019
Q. You even did a role in the series. Acting or being on stage – what do you prefer more?
I don’t have the kind of patience like most actors. I can’t do all the method acting when you are sweating under the light with the director instructing around. I am happier around live audience. I can feed off from their reaction in my act.
Q. The scoring pattern of Comicstaan is quite interesting with judges and studio audience having equal weightage. What do you have to say about that?
I think it’s a very fair assessment. And last year’s winner Nishant Suri’s journey is a witness to it. Also, we don’t have any elimination and with a scoring board culminating every week’s performance’s scores, it can turn around any way.
Q. If there was a show like Comicstaan when you started, would you have participated in it?
I don’t think I would have even cleared the audition. I feel lucky that I started when there were only a few comedians around and the internet was just blooming. It’s amazing to see the amount of effort these contestants put in.
Q. Comedy is still considered an unconventional career choice. What was the kind of struggle you had to face when you started?
I don’t think it was much of a struggle, it’s just that I have romanticised the struggle more (laughs). I had a good degree and a job in hands, when I told my parents, I want to write. Like any parent, mine too wanted me to settle down well, so they refused. When I moved to comedy, I didn’t even tell them, even when I was earning comparably good money. I was in Bangalore, and they were in Orissa, so I knew they wouldn’t fly off to reprimand me. Soon they got to know about it and seeing that I was actually doing well, they finally gave in. Now my mom sends me pictures of every article that she sees in newspapers.
Honestly, I feel it’s a good thing that comedy is still an unconventional career choice, for only the good will manage to survive their way up. And that will definitely create good art.
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