The exterior was still partially covered by plastic sheets. But the Comedy Store Diner, Bar and auditorium were open on Saturday night. The Diner was doing brisk business selling snacks and the bar, decorated with photos of famous comics, was packed as well.
Patrons carried their drinks and food into the ‘black box’, a dark intimate auditorium with state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and tiered seating around a stage. Paul Tonkinson, one of the top stand-up artistes in the UK, was the compere and did not disappoint. His first item was about the venue opening six months late. He did a fabulous sketch, poking fun at the builders and how laid-back they had been about the launch date.
“An angry westerner shouts saying it has to be ready by this date.”
“No it won’t, it will be ready when we want,” he said, imitating a local supervisor.
The jokes were all either improvised interactions with the audience, about sex or Mumbai. The comics spoke about the lack of space, honking, traffic, police, heat and chaos in this city — all based on their observations since arriving. A woman said she worked “in Internet” and that led to Tonkinson making a joke about the fact she lived in her computer owing to the lack of space.
He was followed by Micky Flanagan, an Eastender, who left school “with a bottle opener” and in his second year “learnt to make ash trays”. He did an excellent sketch about how people in the UK now plan when to have sex, fitting it around boiling the rice and watching property renovation TV shows.
A lady in an orange salwar suit and her husband left mid-way through. But everyone else was cracking up. After the interval, Craig Campbell, a Canadian comic, with wild long hair, came on. He did a hysterical sketch on how despite not understanding Hindi, he felt Indians spoke softly, comparing them to the Chinese who, he said, shout loudly at each other, as though a disaster is pending, and yet once, when he had it translated, they were merely discussing picking up the vegetables! It was a fantastic night. The only thing missing was a heckler.
Micky Flanagan: "They say going to the gym makes you feel good. Well, I went to the gym in my Mumbai hotel, lay down on the mat to do sit-ups and woke up two hours later. I felt amazing!"
Paul Tonkinson: "In England, you beep twice and someone gets out of the car to ask you what your problem is. In Mumbai you beep every second just to say you exist."
Craig Campbell: "Indians would not appreciate saunas. They would not feel the difference. They would prefer to have a sauna in a field, as that is what they are used to."
"The best thing you can do for someone visiting Mumbai, is show them ways not to die…. 'Where have you been on holiday?' 'New Zealand', a man in the front row answers. 'How did you find it?' 'Empty,' he replies. 'That is the Indian reaction to anywhere that is not Mumbai.' 'What did you do there?' 'Bungee jumping.' "What! There weren’t enough ways to die in Mumbai?"
Don’t you find that on day three of a cricket match, the presenters run out of things to say? “I heard crows outside my hotel this morning,” he says imitating one. In India you don’t want to ‘need’ electricity.
A visitor came to Canada and asked to see a bear… (Does a sketch on it). Last time I did this sketch, a heckler said: “Are you sure he didn’t mean a beer?”
To book tickets for The Comedy Store, call 022 4348 5000, or log on to www.thecomedystore.in Tickets are also available at www.bookmyshow.com .