Australian comedians Dane Simpson and Alex Ward talk about performing standup in India
Ward believes that even though standup is in its developing stage in India, Internet has helped the audience get well-versed with it
In the documentary Comedian (2002), Jerry Seinfeld says something along the lines of "If you've been doing stand up for four years, think of yourself as a four-year-old in comedy." On Tuesday night, two Australian comedians, of age seven and nine (as per Seinfeld), Dane Simpson and Alex Ward, took to stage at the Bangalore International Centre as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Road Show. The show was hosted by city's Kanan Gill.
Their first time in India, the two comics faced a culture shock when they first stepped foot in the country a week ago. "I come from a place called Wagga Wagga (a city in Australia), and it is much quieter than Melbourne and Melbourne is much quieter than Bengaluru," laughs Simpson, who has his comedy special DIDGERIDOOZY, available in Australia on Paramount+.
Ward had her eye out for some of the quirks present in Indian society. "I spent a few minutes in the afternoon looking at a rooster on the roof and it's been quite entertaining. There's always something to look at here. I love that," quips Ward, mentioning that she and Simpson have been testing out material in various comedy clubs across the country before their shows. "First we went to Mumbai to get an idea of what works. Then, we started our road shows - Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and we will end it with Pune. These shows have gone so much better than so many shows I had done in Australia," says Melbourne-based comedian Ward.
Australia and India, outside of the cricket pitch and being colonised by the British, don't have much in common between them historically and culturally speaking. So the Aussies had to tweak their material a bit to catch the Indian drift. "It's something that the audience and I are in the process of figuring out. In the last couple of shows, I have come to realise that my confusion in trying to fit into Indian culture is a really silly and fun thing for the audience to watch. They understand what it's like to be an Indian and have enough empathy to comprehend how it must be like for an outsider to understand the culture. I am enjoying this process, it helps me grow as a comedian," shares Simpson.
As the standup scene in India is relatively new, Simpson feels it adds a breath of fresh air to the shows here. "I have found the shows to be super fun and the people are here to just have a good time. In Australia, since the audience has been with standup for a lot longer, sometimes they would show up and demand a specific style of comedy to watch. That can get a little difficult at times," says Simpson.
However, Ward feels despite the standup culture in India being in the developing stage, the internet has helped the audience get well-versed with comedy. "Most people I have come across here have watched a lot of standups online. Even though the Australian scene is older, you can still find first-time attendees in shows and not everyone there watches comedy online. But here, even in the club scene, there exist quite a few comedy clubs, especially in Mumbai where there are three, I'm told. Melbourne only has a few more but that is because that city has a larger and older comedy scene. But a city like Brisbane, for example, has only one comedy club. So, Mumbai's scene is technically bigger than Brisbane's," concludes Ward.