Comedian Max Mystel chronicles his comedic endeavors in India

When I decided to travel to India for the first time last year, I was ecstatic.
This is also the point where I will have you, the reader know, that there are two things that I absolutely love exploring unequivocally, whenever I visit new places; their cuisine and their comedy scene. As much I would like to talk about cuisine, I won’t and will leave that for some other piece. Let’s talk about the latter; their comedy scene. First city I went to was Calcutta. From my short research on the internet, the city didn’t seem to have a booming comedy scene back then. Anyway, when I googled ‘open mics calcutta,’ I got a few hits. One particular group called ‘KalkuttaKomedians’ came up and I contacted the owner of the page and managed to get my name on the list of performers for an open mic event. I did my set and the response was overwhelming, to say the least. They understood all my jokes, my references and my tricks. In fact one of the members from the audience asked me why the organisers had put an act so good in the middle and not in the end.
Then I went to Bombay and boy was I in the city for comedy. Their scene was thriving with over 300 comics and many groups hosting events throughout the week. I got the chance to perform at the city’s one and only comedy hub named Canvas Laugh Club and it was quite the treat. The audience in this city was very diverse, comedy conditioned and had been really supportive through and through. However, there was one problem that existed if I were to compare their scene to ours in Bangladesh. One of the major differences between our scenes was the shortage of stage time. You may very well have over 300 comics, but not all of them could secure slots at open mics, since, they were heavily coveted for.
Any comedian worth their salt will tell you that stage time is key to developing a good act. While here in Bangladesh, we may be very few, but because of the smaller numbers, we get more time at open mic events. Also, because of the smaller numbers, time policing is less stringent. However, the low numbers is also our bane. The reason being that it takes a lot of time to come up with really good, presentable content and because of our low numbers we end up recycling a lot of our content to the same audience. We have our own club called Naveed’s Comedy Club, however, our scene in the city is much smaller and very niche. So, most of the open mic events at the club are rarely frequented by new performers. Therefore, we need more comedians to bring diversity into our scene. What would be a breath of fresh air are female comedians. That’s another place where our scenes differ. India has quite a few full time female comics and that is something I am working on achieving here. In order to bring forth this diversity, I have started monthly workshops to teach people the art of stand-up. ‘Laughter for Therapy’ is a workshop that fuses writing comedy with therapy. On October 6th we’re starting the third edition of this month long workshop. The idea here is to help bring more diversity into the comedy scene locally. And simultaneously give people a platform to express their real thoughts and feelings. To me I feel that this is the only way we can help our scene become bigger and better.
Lastly, our scenes may differ in some places, but at the end of the day we serve the same purpose. And that is to unite the masses through the power of laughter and love. Now, this is probably the most hippy thing I will ever say, but laughter is the best medicine, unless you have asthma. Then you need an inhaler!

Max Mystel
Comedian and magician