Basically, I don't know if anyone gives two shits but I thought it would be good to
have a little blog where I can chat comedy (is it a chat if you're just screaming into the void?!) and this seemed a bloody good time to kick it off with my first gigs, in fact my first time, out of Europe. If you do give two shits - read on! I'm gonna talk/type about Week 1 of my Indian adventure which covers BANGALORE, NEW DELHI & HYDERABAD and not forgetting WAGAMAMAS IN LONDON HEATHROW. If you don't give two shits, congrats on getting this far on so little shits.
I've never been out of Europe - the furthest I've been is Spain meaning the longest I've been on an aeroplane is about 2 and a half hours and even then I class that as a 'long flight.' Flying kind of spooks me a bit ever since I watched Final Destination as a kid and became convinced I was gonna have a premonition one day and not a fun Thats So Raven premonition but a GET OFF THE PLANE WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A SPECTACULAR 7 MINUTE OPENING SCENE premonition.
I've always wanted to go travelling and exploring, like a tiny Geordie Christopher Columbus, but I never got the chance to do it as while my friends were off seeing the sights of the world and finding themselves, I was seeing the sights of motorway service stations (Woodhall is still my favourite, thanks for asking) and finding myself on Megabuses to exotic locations such as Hull. My pursuit of comedy kind of took over and I felt like I'd missed out on those opportunities, but hard work pays off (oh god, I sound like an inspirational Instagram quote, quick get a picture of a beach at sunset and put a Valencia filter over it) and now it seems like I AM going to get to see the world .... through the comedy that stopped me from seeing it in the first place.
So, when I was offered the chance to travel to India with Soho Theatre and Comedy Wagon to do a 2 week stint of gigs I jumped at the chance to get to see more of the big wide world that I've been itching to see. Then I found out the flight was 10 hours and I was like TEN HOURS?! I can't sit in a winged tube for TEN HOURS! On the 3 hour train from Newcastle to London I always eat my snacks before I've reached Durham which is SEVEN MINUTES AWAY. Imagine how tetchy I'm going to be when I've eaten all my plane snack for a ten hour journey before we've even taken off?! I felt really nervous - I mean, it's a hell of a lot further than Spain, but it was undeniably too incredible of an opportunity to turn down.
And so off I went.
-> I've never flown from a London airport. Heathrow has a Wagamama's AND a Pret A Manger. That is the most London thing ever. Does it have a Greggs though like Newcastle? Does it fuck. Wagamama's is good but it's not a Steak Bake is it? I'm excited and I'm nervous, mainly cause I don't know what to expect. If it goes well that's great but what if it doesn't - dying on your arse at a local gig is annoying but at least you're home within an hour. Dying at a gig where you're a couple hundred miles from home can be rough as you sit on a long train home trying to work out why the people of Scunthorpe hated you or lie alone staring at the ceiling of a Travelodge having a think about your life choices. But what about dying at a gig on an entirely different continent?! I've also been told that the comedy scene is quite new in India, just a little baby at not even 10 years old. It's still quite a new, fresh and exciting thing that's just beginning to bubble up - whereas here in Britain comedy has exploded all over (and everyone's a critic!) It's going to be interesting to see how an audience newer to comedy differs from back home.
-> This is the biggest plane I've ever been on, it was one with three rows and I felt like I was in an American film (oh fuck, hopefully not Final Destination.) The sky is fucking massive. I watched the new Baywatch film in the sky. Decided if that can be classed as comedy then I should be ay-okay. First long haul flight survived, really enjoyed the complimentary back kicking service I got from the man behind me too - real dedication to keep it up for 10 hours.
-> Our first night in Bangalore and our first gig. Ahead of the tour properly kicking off in New Delhi, we were offered the chance to jump on an open mic/new material night to try out our material and see what the audiences were like. We went along to That Comedy Club, a new club that's been open a few months. This is the first comedy club in Bangalore, and only the second in India. COMEDY IS SO NEW HERE IT'S LIKE FIDGET SPINNERS OR AVOCADO BACK IN THE UK. It proved to be such a useful opportunity and I genuinely was surprised how many similarities there were with an Indian open mic, to one anywhere on the UK circuit - it was comfortingly familiar. And there were about 30 people in, which is roughly 10 times the amount of audience at a London open mic night to be fair. Half a dozen acts did 5 minutes, while me and Ahir had up to 15 to figure our shit out. I absolutely loved it and found the crowd so warm, welcoming and supportive - not only a perfect open mic crowd but the perfect crowd for a British Idiot Abroad (me, not Karl Pilkington.)
I was so chuffed my stuff landed; I had tried to pick stuff with the most universal themes; moving away from home, relationships, shit jobs, family, and just tweak any specific British references ie working at Boots just becomes working in a shop and it seemed all this translated well which was a huge relief. An even bigger relief was the accent not being a problem - I tried to really focus on slowing it down and being clear; I didn't want it my accent to be a barrier between us, as if they can't understand what I'm saying how can I expect them to enjoy it?! Having this time tonight to have this test run, all very low pressure, was so so useful and took away any worries I had about performing in front of an Indian audience. I can't wait to get out there and see if the other cities match up to Bangalore, and coming back here to perform my full set for the final nights of the tour.
On the second night, we headed
back to the club but this time to watch Sahil
Shah do his solo show. It was really interesting to see a busier crowd responding to a solo set as it allowed me to gauge how it might be when we do our longer sets here. They were a great crowd, very lively and responsive with all the classic characters you'd find in a comedy club back home - the hen party, the group of young friends out for a laugh, the weird guy on his own at the front, the couple who aren't a couple but get mistaken for a couple. I felt like they were quite like an American crowd, not just laughing but lots of whooping and noises which is great as it showed they were really involved and up for it. I was surprised how many people said they hadn't been to see any comedy live before but I suppose this is reflective of how new the scene is over here and with a club like this in Bangalore I think there'll be plenty return customers.
The club itself and the brilliant guys who run it also drew parallels to work being done by promoters back on home turf. They've got a huge passion for comedy and just want to put on great shows packed with great comedy performed to great audiences. They've relocated from their original venue in Bangalore to somewhere they feel is better suited and have worked so hard to create something special in the city. It reminds me a lot of what Hot Water is doing in Liverpool, or with Punch Drunk comedy in Blyth ... probably the first and last time Blyth will be compared to Bangalore! It's so nice to see how universal comedy - and the passion for it is. Different country, different comics, different clubs - but it's that same comedy heart beating underneath, keeping comedy alive across the globe.
-> Tonight was the fist night of our tour in the capital city of New Delhi. I was a bit apprehensive about how it would go, as when we'd been chatting we'd been told the audiences here could be a bit tougher to please and maybe not as warm as the Bangalore bunch. The venue was a beautiful little space that kind of reminded me of an Arts Centre back home and it filled up nicely. They seemed a bit reserved and quiet at the start and I was hiding behind the curtain thinking "oh shit they are hard to please this could be tough - if they don't laugh Lauren this was totally a practice one!" But then the laughs started to come and I was thinking, "OK that's good they've got it in them to laugh this hard, they obviously can laugh this hard and WANT to laugh this hard I just need to make sure I get it out of them!"
They turned out to be bloody lovely and I had an absolute blast. It's very funny (and unusual!) for me to be able to playfully pick fun at the fact I'm the only white person in the room, and it goes down well with the crowd too. I mentioned being from Newcastle and, like last night, was surprised when people knew of it. Then I heard some people saying 'FOOTBALL!' and I was like AHHH THAT'S HOW THEY KNOW! I didn't expect a place so far away to have heard of little old Newcastle but I forgot about football being, well, a thing. I'd been feeling a bit shit (literally, please hold off Delhi Belly I really like having fully functioning bowels) and they totally took my mind off it. I checked in at the beginning and end about the accent situation and they confirmed it was all good. It's weird having to be so conscious about how you're speaking, especially AS you're speaking but it was worth it to be able to click with an audience that are geographically thousand of miles from me but comedicly, judging by tonight, couldn't be any closer to my own heart.
I rounded off the night with a truly authentic Indian meal of fish fingers & chips. You can take the girl out of England ...
-> Night two of the tour took us to Hyderabad. I liked Hyderabad a lot when we were driving around it, it seemed very pretty and also the hotel had the comfiest bed I've ever experienced. I'd assumed it would be quite a full on trip, as looking at the itinerary before we left in the days building up to Goa there were lots of 5/6am check outs from the hotels to catch early morning flights to the next city, but I hadn't actually considered how bloody tiring it would be. With a mix of jet lag, travel tiredness and the general fact I've not been able to sleep and since I stepped on the plane on Tuesday I've had less than 10 hours sleep in 4 nights. By today I felt properly exhausted, even more than final week of Edinburgh Fringe exhausted, and that is pretty damn exhausted. I was worried I was being a Total Princess, I'm not used to touring, or this much travelling via plane in short spaces of time, nor this many super early mornings, nor this little sleep - but turns out everyone was equally broken as we all KO'd for virtually all of the day once we'd checked in.
After last night in Delhi, I was really looking forward to tonight - Karunesh had mentioned to us that the comedy scene in Hyderabad was super super new, and the audiences weren't as used to seeing fully formed comics, and so he said he safely assumed the audience would be properly up for it.
He was bloody right. They were smaller in numbers, which can be disheartening as a comic, but I've learned not to judge a room by the amount of people in it. A full room doesn't always mean a good room, likewise a sparse room doesn't automatically equate to a shit room. And I'm pleased this rang true tonight; the audience were so lovely, massively responsive and receptive, so warm and just a joy to play for. I'd rather play to 30/40 people who really bloody want to be there, than 100 who are ambivalent. This was a crowd who really, really just wanted to come out, see good comedy, laugh and be entertained aka the perfect audience. I wonder if maybe this is something to do with the scene being so new here, that they have this real appetite for it as it's new and exciting - sometimes at home you get an audience that just don't seem to want to be there and maybe that's cause we have so much comedy in the UK that sometimes maybe audiences aren't as hungry for it; they're so used to it being there that maybe they almost take it for granted at times and lose some of that excitement and spark of how bloody great live comedy is.