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India's first standalone comedy club

india Updated: Oct 12, 2009 12:18 IST
Naomi Canton
Naomi Canton
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

When the Comedy Store opens up in Mumbai in 2010, it will be India's first standalone comedy club.http://www.hindustantimes.com//Images/edstoryImg/111009/Don-Ward.jpg

The three-floor club is set to launch inside the luxury shopping mall Palladium at High Street Phoenix in Lower Parel on January 14th.

The 2.5m pound (19 crore) club is a 50:50 joint venture between the Gurgaon-based The Spa Group, which specialises in partnering with foreign luxury brands in India, and the UK-based Comedy Store.

It is the Comedy Store's third outlet, and first international one - the other two being in London and Manchester.

"When it was our 20ths anniversary I thought I better do something big so I opened one up in Manchester. Now it's our 30th anniversary and so I thought I better do something special so I am opening up in Mumbai," says CEO and founder Don Ward, relaxing after a spa at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, where he is staying.

The third floor of the Comedy Store Mumbai will be the comedy club, made of up a half circle stage and auditorium seating 325.

Close to stage
"The aim is for everyone to be as close to the stage as possible so that the comedian can see the whites of your eyes. Comedians need to see your eyes to perform. The focus will be very much on the stage. We will have our trademark black, white and red

Star puller

The Comedy Store is considered to be the premiere comedy venue in the UK. Hollywood stars who have graced the Comedy Store stage in London include Robin Williams, Mike Myers and Chris Rock. The club is also renowned for its ability to break new talent. Star alumni include Ben Elton, Paul Merton, Jo Brand, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Clive Anderson and Chris Barrie.

colours and photos of comics and so on on the walls to create comedy history," he adds.

Professional international comedians from across the world, who are on the Comedy Store's "list", will perform there Thursday to Sunday evenings. On Saturdays, however, there will be two evening shows and, on Sundays, a comedy brunch and evening show.

Mondays to Wednesday will be open mike sessions for local comedians to have a go.

"Anyone can get up an have a go and I will give them my opinion since I will be in Mumbai quite a lot," Ward says. "I am looking for new talent that has not yet been discovered in India . I am not looking for established Indian artists with agendas and egos that are already doing stuff here. That guy that scratches on the window could be my next superstar. I am looking for the next big thing," Ward adds, his eyes gleaming.

On Saturdays the international comedians will hold masterclasses for aspiring comedians.

Affordable
"We shall make it affordable" Ward adds. "We have never been unaffordable even in London. I want the average person to be able come."

On the fourth floor there will be a restaurant and bar aptly named Soho, the trendy part of London where the first Comedy Store was founded.

Soho will serve western/ pan Asian cuisine, and above it will be a mezzanine area where people can look down on the floors below, as well as a VIP room.

There will also be parking for 300 cars.

As for whether the international comedy market has got saturated with too many other players, Amar Agrawal, managing director of The Spa Group, says: "It's good there are other people bringing comedians here. It brings up the whole market and makes us look a bit better."

Paul Tough, a consultant to Ward, adds: "Some comedians would not even get 30 minutes on a Comedy Store stage -it's a rite of passage for any comedian to want to perform there and that is what will set us apart. We are the world's most famous Comedy brand. There is nothing like us here. When we started in the UK there was nowhere. Now there are 300 places where you can see standup comedy in the so we have created the market."