Tonight, if you step into the shiny façade that is Palladium, looking for a laugh, The Comedy Store may not be your obvious choice. Instead, the international club, famous for bringing in stand-up comedians will be a meeting point for serious ears as folk ensemble Rajasthan Roots takes to the stage. Among other things, India’s first dedicated comedy club is now opening up to everything from jazz and Indian classical music nights to children’s theatre within their 300-seater auditorium.
With India’s embryonic local comedy scene, sceptics have long questioned the future of this stand alone stand-up joint, since its opening in June last year. And after eight months of laughs, keeping up its flashy outlet may no longer be just a laughing matter for the London-based company. “They don’t have international gigs through the week. And face it, the local scene is not worth the ticket price they charge. I guess it’s time they opened up the venue and found other ways to make money,” opines student Anubha Vaidya. The Comedy Store’s marketing and communication manager, Meghna Dave, however, chooses to differ. “There is immense talent in the country and we hope to put the spotlight on them. The venue is primarily a platform for stand-up, but we realised that the entire place could also be used as an ideal location for theatrical and music performances,” she says. “In fact, we are only open to light-hearted productions, so it’s just an extension of stand-up,” she adds.
After the not-so-amusing response to their nights featuring comedy rock bands, the Store has now started its Played Live series every Tuesday, inviting more sombre, unplugged and acoustic gigs. “We are looking towards genres such as world music, fusion, jazz and even Indian classical music and blues,” says Dave. “The acoustics we’ve installed are great for such performances, and an intimate setup like this remains unparalleled in Mumbai.” Tonight, instead of peals of laughter, the club will be ringing with the sounds of Rajasthani folk music. And up next, bands like Bengaluru’s Thermal and a Quarter and Delhi’s fusion band Mrigya will be seen at the Tuesday music nights.
However, for many, sitting in an auditorium surrounded by rows of chairs while sipping beer and bopping heads to the beats may not be the best way to enjoy a live gig. “It’s not designed for music,” says musician Sahil Makhija, who performed a comedy rock gig with his band Workshop at the venue. “Comedy is a very niche audience and the scene is still opening up. It’s like the live music scene in the ’90s. So they need to diversify to other avenues till the comedy scene becomes strong. The venue can work for a sit-down band, and I hear that they are upgrading their soundsystem. It’ll be great for acoustic bands and singer/songwriters,” he says.
“But a high-energy band like a Pentagram or my band Demonic Resurrection cannot work. In fact, the size of the stage is fit for stand-ups only. I don’t know how they plan to even fit a drum kit on it,” questions Makhija.
Kaveer Shahani of Groove Temple, looking after the music nights at the club confirms, “We’ve upgraded the sound system.” He adds, “Our first gig last week was a jazz ensemble and the setting proved ideal for such a performance.”
Rajasthan Roots performs at The Comedy Store, Palladium, High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel. Tickets priced at Rs.300.