Known as the godfather of stand-up comedy, comedian-turned-entrepreneur Don Ward can’t stop beaming with pride at his business project, The Comedy Store, which celebrated its first birthday in India on June 19. “Everyone said I’d go bankrupt with this move, but when I visited Mumbai back in 2009, I sensed it in my guts that the idea would work, and it did,” he says. After pumping in four million pounds (R 30 crore) into establishing The Comedy Store at High Street Phoenix, he reflects, “We’ve had our ups and downs, and now we’re up again. From selling almost 80 per cent of our seats per show, we dipped to 20 per cent. These days we’re about eight to ten seats short of selling out”.
It’s been 42 years since Ward launched the first outlet of The Comedy Store in Soho, London, following it up with a branch in Manchester thirty years later– in 2000. Ask him if he ever expected the kind of success he’s found here and he says, “Yes. My idea was different. We were the very first comedy club to open up in Britain and it seemed reasonable to think that the idea would flourish”, adding “There are dozens of comedy clubs in Britain today that opened up after seeing what we did. Bringing the Store down to India wasn’t very logical, but it’s worked. Soon enough, there’ll be other comedy clubs here as well. Though, we’re still the original institution.” Justifying the whopping investment of 4 million pounds, Don only smiles and says, “I’m here for the long haul.”
However, celebrations surrounding the event are sparse. “The shows here are a celebration in themselves,” laughs Don. The Store’s one-year anniversary was ushered in with performances by Hal Cruttunden, Glen Wool and Imran Yusuf. Yusuf, who is the first Brit-Asian to ever perform at The Comedy Store, Mumbai, jokes “I love performing here because Indians love having their accents mocked. We use this term back home called ‘comedy-savvy’, and it certainly applies to you guys.” He also describes The Comedy Store to be “the Wembley of stand-up humour.”
Glenn Wool, Markus Birdman and Anuvab Pal, live at The Comedy Store, June 23-25. Show starts at 8.30 pm, tickets at Rs 500.