To celebrate its annual Prime Day event, Amazon Prime Video has released a special series of 10-minute comedy sets from 14 comics, all shot remotely. The line-up includes a mix of established names such as Sapan Verma, Rahul Subramaniam and Sumukhi Suresh as well as the newer generation of comics including Comicstaan breakouts such as Nishant Suri, Rahul Dua and Aishwarya Mohanraj.
Given the current circumstances, all 14 sets had one thing in common – the lack of a live audience. The comics had to adapt their delivery and approach to a piece-to-camera format that isn't reliant on the back and forth interaction and energy of a live show. At a time where it doesn't look like comedians will be returning to the stage for live shows anytime soon, this is certainly an interesting idea. It could also be the first of many more to come.
It was also encouraging to see a (relatively) more gender-balanced line-up which included 5 female comics, especially considering Amazon Prime Video's poor track record (out of a total of close to 40 comedy specials thus far, only 3 are by women comics).
Having watched all 14, in no particular order, here's my list of the four strongest sets:
In her segment titled How To Win A Breakup, Aishwarya appears to be entirely at ease with the format with a set that's clearly been tweaked for the lack of crowd. Relaying her journey to getting a 'revenge bod' to spite her ex, she's perfectly lands what she's going for with her distinctive and immensely affable style. Hers is a delightful set that keeps you smiling throughout.
More a performance piece than stand-up, Karthik Kumar's segment on trolling stayed with me the most. The sharply written and excellently performed set is less anecdotes-with-punchlines and more of a theatrical monologue about what drives trolling and how it impacts artists. "If you keep acting like it doesn't hurt, you don't lose the pain, you lose the feeling". Karthik's commentary touches on some fascinating insights such as how stars live in fear of their fans, worried they'll one day be discovered, and why superfans are, in fact, far more dangerous than trolls. In a specific, self-aware 12-minute set, Karthik highlights the very essence of the art form – of how one person just talking at you can really take you places.
Easily the funniest segment of the line-up, the Comicstaan discovery uses punchline-infused storytelling to great effect. With his animated delivery, Suri covers everything from depression and navigating therapy to sexual attraction towards dolphins. While I wish it had a stronger pay off, it's insightful, personal and keeps the laughs coming.
Split into three parts, for her segment Sumukhi leans into her strengths by playing multiple characters. The first, and funniest, sees her reprising her beloved character of enraged 10-year-old Behti Naak who offers a hilarious rant against those who claim 'marks don't matter'. That's followed by Sumukhi playing her own mother with jabs at how manipulative Indian mothers can be, before closing with conventional stand up in a strong set about the hellish hassles of women's changing rooms. All three don't quite have the same impact, but it's memorable nonetheless.