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The fall of stand-up comedy shows on Hindi TV channels
New Delhi, June 8 - Stand-up comedy, a major attraction on entertainment channels just a few years back, has virtually disappeared from TV and is sprouting on the platform of Internet.
After "The Great India Laughter Challenge" in 2017, it's hard to recall any stand-up comedy show of significance telecast on any Hindi TV channel.
While it is being missed on TV channels, the urban youth is getting its dose of humour with comedy shows and channels on the Internet.
There are comedians Kunal Kamra, Zakir Khan, Atul Khatri, Varun Grover and of course, Vir Das, Hasan Minhaj and the like, who have become the millennials' favourites with their content which has got a platform via social media, live concerts and shows on OTT platforms or on YouTube.
Comedian Abhishek Walia, winner of the fifth season of stand-up comedy reality show "The Great Indian Laughter Challenge", finds "lack of innovation" and "censorship" the main reasons behind the downfall of stand-up comedy on the Hindi small screen.
"StarPlus' tagline says 'Rishta wahi, soch nayi', but recalling my experience of working with the channel, I would say that it believes in 'Ristha wahi, soch bhi wahi'.
"Production houses are not ready to bring changes in the format of the shows, especially stand-up comedy shows. You can't even say 'kutta (dog)' while performing acts on TV. And If you are planning to make a joke against the government, makers will cancel your stint," Walia told IANS.
He was referring to comedian Shyam Rangeela's experience two years ago.
Shyam Rangeela was stopped by StarPlus from mimicking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi on the show. On a short notice, he was asked to prepare fresh scripts after his act on Modi got rejected.
Walia said: "I understand there is a pressure on production houses and they have certain policies, but with time, comedy has evolved and one can't serve the audience the same thing. Comedians should be given freedom to express in acts."
Shows like "Acting Ki Funshaala", "Comedy Circus", "Funjabbi Chak De" and "Mazaak Mazaak Mein" were once popular. It was almost a daily dose of comedy.
But as far as the current scenario is concerned, it is only "The Kapil Sharma Show" that pops up in the mind. And that too cannot qualify as a proper stand-up comedy show as a major part of it involves a chat-with-celebrities format.
Actress Archana Puran Singh, who is currently a part of comedian Kapil Sharma's show and has judged several comedy shows in the past, said: "A higher level of stand-up comedians is required, and the number of people who can do that level are not many.
"That is why stand-up comedy shows are less on TV. Television holds on to masses. What comedians are doing on the Internet is quite westernised.
"They appeal more to English-speaking people. If you have to survive on TV, it is a must to appeal to masses. Therefore, comedians who appeal to masses can go a long way on television and Kapil Sharma is one of them."
Comedy is considered a difficult genre. Is that also a reason why TV channels are no longer interested in the risk-taking business and want to play safe?
IANS tried to contact officials of multiple channels, but they refused to comment.
Comedian Chandan Prabhakar said the "difficulty level" is one reason why there are less number of stand-up TV comedy shows.
"Comedy is a tough subject to do. Everyone can't do comedy. You can find a dance school or music school, but you cannot find a comedy school. No one can teach you comedy," added Chandan, who made his TV debut with "The Great Indian Laughter Challenge" season 3. He is now working with Kapil on his on-going show.
There's still hope for the return of stand-up comedy on TV.
Sunil Pal, one of the small screen's favourite comedians, says the Internet cannot make everyone laugh.
"There are many people who do not even know what Internet is. They still binge watch shows on their TV set. There are people who still wait for 9 p.m. to watch their favourite shows on TV.
"TV has its own magic...I wish channels start creating more comedy shows for TV audience as it will also help comedians in getting more opportunities to spread their humour and in gaining face value," he said.
(Simran Sethi can be contacted at email@example.com)
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