On paper, Amazon Prime’s One Mic Stand is a novel concept. Conceptualized and created by comedian Sapan Verma, One Mic Stand’s premise is simple – five celebrities from different walks of life train with a popular stand-up comedian and then deliver a ‘one-night only’ stand-up set. Verma serves as the common denominator, host and narrator.
The headliners for the Amazon Prime show include Bhuvan Bam, Taapsee Pannu, Richa Chadha, Vishal Dadlani and India’s favourite English teacher and politician, Shashi Tharoor. The line-up is designed to catch your attention and your recommendation algorithm. Three out of five of those celebrities are Bollywood names. That said, it must be noted that of the five, it was Shashi Tharoor’s promotional clip that went viral.
The episodes have a set format – the context of the “star” is set, jump to mentor’s gig in front of the live audience, training montage, Sapan Verma’s short set, and then onto the main star. The first episode opens strong with Zakir Khan delivering as per usual and mentoring Bhuvan Bam, the guest star closest to the comedy art form. Bam delivers a decent first-time performance. He keeps it honest and plays to his strengths. It works.
Bollywood actor Taapsee Pannu is a pleasant surprise too. She partners with East India Comedy’s Angad Singh Ranyal. Pannu is confident on stage, has the right amount of comedic timing, and works the crowd as much as she can. The content, focused on the ‘Bollywood life’, seems earnest enough, but isn’t path breaking. But then, it’s a ‘One-mic Stand’, so it’s okay.
What doesn’t work, are episodes 3 and 4 which feature actor Richa Chadha and Vishal Dadlani. It was hard for me to decide which one of the two is more cringeworthy – but I think Dadlani takes the prize on this one. Vishal’s set bombs spectacularly, isn’t funny, and what makes it worse is that he goes in with the intention of delivering “an honest message on mental health”. Last time I encountered something that fabricated was when I tried the McDonald’s “Shake” in the United States which is made with synthetic milk. What doesn’t help these episodes is that their mentors Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya also deliver sets that can be called average at best.
What doesn’t work, are episodes 3 and 4 which feature actor Richa Chadha and Vishal Dadlani. It was hard for me to decide which one of the two is more cringeworthy – but I think Dadlani takes the prize on this one.
The final episode featuring Shashi Tharoor deserves the popularity the preview clip got. Tharoor, a fantastic orator, owns the stage, the material and the delivery. The coup here was to partner him with another politically-inclined comedian Kunal Kamra – and it works. It helps the series end on a high. I won’t get into the details of the set, but I will tell you that it’s witty, timed well, sharp and worth your time.
So is One Mic Stand worth your time? Watch the first two and the final episode and you would have covered the best of what it has to offer. The concept is novel, it is most certainly an exercise in vanity, but more often than not it does delivers on the laughs. The training montages, however, are totally worth skipping. The ‘exotic’ locales, from Five-star hotels to popular Delhi pubs, where our comedians and stars meet, are all polished in post to give a LA-esque feel to the proceedings. They look and feel staged, offering no insight into the stand-up art form, the process, or the people. Those segments rarely possess any entertainment or informative value – unlike the ones you’ve seen in other Amazon Prime shows like Comicstaan.