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OTTs give much needed fillip to stand-up comedy

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MUMBAI: Even as recently as a decade ago, making a decision to become a full-time stand-up comedian in India was fraught with uncertainty. Today, however, the business of being funny is taken seriously.

The genre is still just beginning to get popular in semi-urban and rural areas and the growth of over-the-top (OTT) platforms has given it a much-deserved boost. Offline stand-up shows have time, place and ticket constraints whereas the web takes away all these pains and enables access on a click.

Comedy as a genre is a hit in India in both movies and TV shows since the 1950s. The stand-up comedy era is a new one and is increasingly being banked upon Youtube, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and ALTBalaji among other digital platforms.

Women like Aditi Mittal, Mallika Dua, Radhika Vaz, Sumukhi Suresh, Kaneez Surka and Neeti Palta have proved that they can tickle your funny bone too. In mid-2017, TLC India launched an all-female stand-up comedy show to break the stereotype that women cannot be inherently funny.

Most comedians get a breakthrough from YouTube and Facebook where anyone can upload their content. These platforms are open for beginners as well as professionals and have helped transform amateurs into professionals. One of the most viewed and subscribed channels on YouTube in India is ‘BB Ki Vines’ that belongs to comedian Bhuvan Bam, who started his career as a YouTuber and is a celebrity now.

Amazon Prime India continues to bet heavily on comedy for its original content in India. After the streaming service released a slew of stand-up specials last year, betting high on faces like Kanan Gill, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Kenny Sebastian and others, it has released a new special with 23 acts from 16 March. The new show features Indian artists like Kunal Rao, Sorabh Pant, Zakir Khan and Sumukhi Suresh, among others, as well as sketch shows like The Improvisers, Put Chutney and Sketchy Behaviour featuring well-known comedians from all over the country.

Since its entry, Netflix has delivered a high-profile comedy special every week. Aditi Mittal is the first Indian female comedian who made her debut on Netflix with Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say. On the international front, Netflix has Indian-origin comedians like Vir Das, Hansal Minhaz and Brahman Naman to convert the chuckles into belly laugh.

Looking at the Indian platforms, ALTBalaji has been at the forefront of regional language stand-up shows which has tremendous scope as cultural nuances in India are far and wide. ALTBalaji is the only platform to launch regional stand-up comedy videos in Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages. It focuses more on the last two languages for now because of their presence in India and abroad. In all, it has short, snacky and hilarious videos with 65 episodes and five hours 30 minutes of content featuring famous comic artists like Bharat Ganeshpure, Sagar Karande, Anirudh Madesia, Suresh Albela, Pratap Faujdar, Amit Khuva, Dharsi Baredia, Shanti Kumar, Shaik Baba Sharifuddin, Baggy, Manoj and Mervyn.

ALTBalaji CMO Manav Sethi says that the platform saw viewership rise by 10-15 per cent after adding these comedy bits into its content lineup. He further added, “We have seen significant double-digit growth in this genre especially in 18-40 age segment from top 30 cities. We have seen new consumers coming to our platform because of our comedy content.”

ALTBalaji COO Sunil Nair believes, “Users on ALTBalaji consume snacky content during commute time and we see a jump in consumption of stand-up acts during these time periods.” Sethi adds that by adding comedy content from various languages, each with its own flavours, they have been able to hit the sweet spot.

Earlier, comedy was driven by broadcaster demands who would decide on the content and even own the intellectual property. But OTT platforms are willing to experiment with unconventional content.

By far, stand-up comedy is emerging as a high growth genre for web audiences. Until a few years ago, career and stand-up comedy in a sentence together would only come up as an example of an oxymoron. But gladly times have changed and people have become more audacious, informed, and most importantly accepting and online platforms have been quick to realise the hidden potential in it.

Also Read :

Localised content the way forward for Netflix in India

2017: The year OTTs went regional in India

Regional OTT content more than just catch-up TV 

Indians among top commute streamers for Netflix

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