Comicstaan Season 3 Review: Too safe despite subtle jail jokes
Eight comedians fight for the title of India’s next best stand-up comic, while veterans Zakir Khan, Sumukhi Suresh, Neeti Palta, and Kenny Sebastian decide their fate
Back on Amazon Prime Video this week is Comicstaan season 3 amidst a lot of hype and marketing. With a few format changes, the show brings forth eight talented comedians, most of whom seem to be better writers than performers.
In the previous seasons of Comicstaan, the judges have also been the mentors of these young comedians, teaching them one genre at a time. But season 3 has separated the mentors and judges. All the four judges have made a comeback from the last season, with Zakir Khan, Sumukhi Suresh, Neeti Palta, and Kenny Sebastian deciding who India’s next best stand-up comic will be.
This year, Sapan Verma and Kanan Gill (judges from the previous season), along with Rohan Joshi, Rahul Subramanian, Prashasti Singh, Aadar Malik, and Anu Menon mentored the comedians in formats such as topical comedy, observational comedy, improv, roast comedy and more. Abish Mathew made his comeback as the host, with the female host changing again. Kusha Kapila made her Prime Video debut, representing the Instagram influencer world.
With many big names, fancy sets and production, season 3 still has more dull than funny moments. The comedians, though big on writing talent, don’t seem to have the best comic timing. Pavitra Shetty stood out in that regard, with great performances and ample use of body language to elicit laughter. But I still picked my favourites from the lot of eight as Gurleen Pannu, Shamik Chakrabarti, Natiq Hasan and Aashish Solanki.
For the episode on roast comedy, Joshi of AIB fame, mentored the comedians who went on to insult hosts, fellow contestants, judges and the mentor himself. However, for a show where almost all the contestants roasted Sebastian for his “safe” jokes, none of them had any wild or brutal jokes themselves.
No one took jibes at the politics, economics of the country or any other social issue, for instance. Yes, Solanki did do a set on unemployment for the topical comedy episode, but all of his jokes were innocent and “relatable”. There were subtle jokes about comedians being jailed and FIRs against comedians too in episodes but they were mostly punchlines. Well, can’t blame them too much. After all, they were contestants on Comicstaan and not Khatron ke Khiladi.
Even my personal favourites, Pannu and Chakrabarti had jokes that would get sure shot laughter and were tailored to be likable by the audience. (By the way, Pannu’s style of comedy reminds one of season 1’s runner-up Rahul Dua.)
But the hosts took a chance. Kapila asked Verma whether it was possible to do topical comedy without getting an FIR. And Verma retorted that the mentor for topical comedy was not just him, but the legal team as well. Mathew joked during the improv episode that a lot of comics were already playing Hands Up (an improv game that was played on the show) outside the sets of the show, and Malik, while taking suggestions for an improv game, grinned that it’s probably better to keep comedians away from jails.
What I liked best about the improv episode was that it made me realise just how funny awkwardness can be. There were three to four comedians on the stage at any given time, trying to instantly come up with funny responses and reactions to whatever was unfolding at the moment, and they seemed to have fun even when they knew they were making a mistake. Mentored by Malik, the contestants played Blind Game, Sit Stand Kneel, Countdown and Things You Can Say.
It’s also funny that the show’s most memorable moments were not essentially jokes or punchlines. In the topical comedy episode, Adesh Nichit forgot his set a few seconds into it, and very innocently asked if he could start again and if the timer could be restarted. It couldn’t be, but it was a delight to witness him make a hilarious comeback seconds after he had bombed.
In the same episode, Natiq Hasan’s set didn’t land. The audience did not even realise when his set was over and there was awkward silence around. Until Hasan himself acknowledged that he “f****d up”. That, ironically, got a big laugh from the audience and judges alike, and ended up getting him an extra point as well. In another episode, Hasan even confessed that he doesn’t write his jokes and improvises on stage, which got him a lecture from Zakir Khan for not taking the art form seriously.
Even in the moments where it seemed like the judges, hosts and mentors did not want to be on the show, were clearly not enjoying it and faking laughter, these real, vulnerable moments stood out and ended up being very heartwarming.
(This review is based on the episodes featuring Sapan Verma, Aadar Malik and Rohan Joshi.)