The Comedy Store at Palladium, Lower Parel was India’s first and only dedicated comedy space. But when it began giving its stage out to plays like Vagina Monologues and music acts like Prem Joshua’s band, rumours spread that the concept couldn’t sustain itself. But proprietor Don Ward, who started the original Comedy Store in London over two decades ago, insists that it was always part of the plan.
Open to everybody “It is a performance space, if other want to use it, they can,” he says, adding, “It isn’t random and we’re not allowing just anybody to show up here. But the acoustics and setup is unmatched.” About rumours of financial problems, Ward elaborates, “My Indian partner Aman Agarwal and I have personally financed the Comedy Store, there’s been no ban borrowing here. We still had a few things that needed to be fine-tuned, but those are being worked out.”
As far as their plan of finding and promoting local talent goes, business development head Paul Tough believes that, contrary to public perception, things have come together much earlier than expected. “We figured it would take us atleast two years to even begin to find talent. But in just nine months since we’ve opened, we’ve got together a community of six guys who have now put up their own show, Local Heroes.” The local comedians will also be part of the India tour that the Comedy Store is planning to organise soon.
Now that Ward has also opened a fine dining restaurant, Canvas, above the store, he says his dream is complete. The multi-level eatery has an open-air balcony area which overlooks the High Street Phoenix property, and also has a performance area in the main lounge section. “We don’t even have a space like this in London. In Manchester, it’s just good food that we serve. But since this place was available, we wanted to give our customers the chance to have a nice meal either before or after the show.” He gives hope to Mumbai’s night owls when he adds, “We can do whatever we want in this space. If we want to turn it into a discotheque later at night, we can. Or we may just chose to make it a late night lounge.”
One thing the comedy businessmen admit they could improve though is promoting the bar area outside the actual club space. “We didn’t know that people thought they had to buy a ticket to enter the bar,” says Ward incredulously. “We will make sure that the bouncers now stand inside the doors so that more people feel comfortable entering,” Ward says.