The three Comedy Store comics from London crash into the sofa, looking drained and worn out having just landed. When asked where their favourite gigs in the past have been, responses range from New Zealand, “which was really good fun’, according to Craig Campbell and Paul Tonkinson, to Micky Flanagan’s personal favourite, the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnall Green, a tiny corner tucked away in London.
Discussing the prospect of performing at the opening of the Comedy Store in Mumbai this weekend, their eyes light up. Campbell becomes extremely animated, excited at the opportunity to “engage with a completely different culture”. He says the Indian audience takes pride in understanding and enjoying the jokes, comparing them to the apathy of audiences in London, who he says don’t want to understand.
Observational comedian Tonkinson, who performed in Mumbai earlier, explains that the humour here isn’t that different. “Our comedy is observational,” he explains. He adds the next few days will be a really interesting opportunity to perform to an audience who aren’t expats, and who will genuinely challenge their skills as observational comedians.
With the developing comedy scene in India, everything is up for grabs, he enthuses. “I’m here to play to a different culture. And also make some money in the future,” he says.
Arts and Crafts or Music?
When asked about how they perceive their comedy, stand-up, the comics immediately distance themselves from the rehearsal style of theatre. Tomkinson describes it more fluid than the traditional arts, since the comic shapes the audience. “It’s arts and crafts”, he says.
Flanagan compares the comedian to a musician, where the comic has a “vague idea” of where the show will go. “But if something happens on the night, he’s happy to follow that tangent. A musician won’t,” he adds. Part of the enjoyment, for Flanagan, is the unpredictability of stand-up. “You just play with the audience on the night.”
The Comedy Store in Mumbai plans to take aspiring Indian comedians to the London Comedy Circuit too. “It’ll be absolutely brilliant”, attests Flanagan, “a comedy exchange.”
Paul Tonkinson, Craig Campbell and Micky Flanagan perform for free on Saturday and Sunday at The Comedy Store, Mumbai at the Palladium, Lower Parel.