By his own admission, Sourav Ghosh never sold out as a comic. But when he retired from stand-up comedy, he finally got the sweet taste of having houseful shows. And he is not complaining.
Last Sunday, Ghosh, along with entrepreneur and educationist Meghdut Roy Chowdhury, launched The Retired Comedy Club at TopCat CCU in Kolkata with two back-to-back shows of Anirban Ke Chaar Bachche. And both the club and the shows — performed and hosted by the ever-smiling comic Anirban Dasgupta — were immense hits.
Ghosh said his hard work in the last few months has borne fruit as he could finally give birth to the first professional comedy club of Kolkata. Ghosh revealed that the idea of The Retired Comedy Club germinated a while back.
“When we started doing comedy eight years ago, we found no takers in Kolkata. We had to travel to Mumbai to perform. While the comedy scene has grown in Kolkata over the years and audiences warmed up to stand-ups, the city was still missing a comedy club. If a new comic has to professionally pursue stand-up, he or she still has to go to Mumbai. In the meantime, I also retired from comedy. So I was wondering what to do next and the idea of opening a club in Kolkata cropped up,” Ghosh told TOI.
With the concept of a comedy club in his mind, the tricenarian started working towards his goal. “Initially, there was a bit of scepticism as people said a comedy club in Kolkata won’t be sustainable as the city doesn’t have enough student population; the city is also laidback in a way and there are only 10 stand-up comics from the city. But those never deterred me. I pursued my objective and I was convinced about my idea once I visited TopCat CCU. The pub was perfect for a stand-up setting with low-ceiling, decent seating arrangements for 100 people and a good bar. I immediately reached out to the owner Meghdut and we instantly hit it off. It was great to see two houseful shows on our opening night. Today, we feel liberated and there is nothing which would hold us back,” said Ghosh.
Ghosh’s enthusiasm isn’t misplaced if Sunday’s show is anything to go by. The affable Anirban Dasgupta held sway over his audience by presenting an extremely tight set which was spontaneous, original, sarcastic and personal. Even when he took a swipe at the current political state of the country, he punctuated it with his witty humour, leaving the audience in splits. While there was never a dry moment when he was on stage, he was well supported by his Chaar Bachche — Ritabrata Dass, Rivu Ganguly, Abhinav Tiwary and Amrita Chanda — who are also four upcoming comics from the city.
The star of last Sunday’s show Dasgupta shared his experience of performing at a comedy club in his home city for the first time. “Kolkata has always been super kind to me. So I am very happy with the shows and I had a great time. Stand-up has evolved a lot in Kolkata, mostly due to the working comics in the city. They practise their craft without getting demotivated by audience numbers for many years. All credit to them. And now more and more people discover stand-up via youtube and OTTs, we just need a fraction of them to step out to experience live shows,” Dasgupta told TOI.
After struggling initially in Kolkata, Dasgupta finally made it big when he started performing in Mumbai and his craft got noticed. Dasgupta feels the Retired Comedy Club will help the upcoming comics in the city find their way even though there are a lot of stand-up shows which are being hosted in Kolkata.
“The level of comics in this city is very high. No two Kolkata comics sound the same. That’s very impressive. A comedy club will only benefit them. Plus a club will also give birth to new comics,” said Dasgupta.
With his club getting off to a rousing start, Ghosh now wants to build on this platform. “The key word is momentum. Now that we have it, we won’t let it go. There are a lot of comics lined up like Prashasti Singh, Samay Raina and Manik Mahna. We are also going to start open-mics soon,” said Ghosh.
Dasgupta, who has also co-written a popular web-series with Ghosh, feels The Retired Comedy Club can have a far-reaching impact in the longer run. “In the coming months, we will get to see some of the biggest acts in the country, but the real impact will be when audiences come to see local acts and shows without a headliner flying down from Mumbai. That’s the goal,” he said.
“Not many cities in India have a proper comedy club… Hope we make the most of it in Kolkata. And I have no doubt about that because of my faith in Sourav Ghosh. Apart from being an exceptional comic (retired) and screenwriter, he is a great producer. When we started eight years ago, he ran five open mics a week, where we built our material. There isn’t a better guy to help things and guide everyone on the right path,” Dasgupta signed off.