Rohan Joshi made his stand-up comeback with his 'Wake N' Bake' tour last year – a tour that was sold out in most locations. The special on Amazon Prime, recorded in Mumbai, boasts a simple yet effective production design – with effective stage and light design, intended to keep the focus on Rohan. It's a great move because in that focused light, Rohan and his material shines.
Rohan was one of the original members of All India Backhod (AIB) and co-creator of On Air with AIB, which was at its best, hilarious and incisive. Post a self-imposed hiatus, Rohan was one of the first to return to stand-up specials. One can safely assume that the hiatus worked well – giving him time to tune both the content and the delivery.
'Wake N' Bake' unlike what the name suggests, isn't a 'stoner' comedy special – so that's the first refreshing change. In fact, Rohan doesn't even get to the substance in question until much later in the one-hour special, but he does set up the joke in the first few minutes.
The third act is when he moves into the 'smart comedy' segment, tackling issues like privilege, race, having opinions and a little bit of politics. This segment works primarily because it doesn't lean towards a school of political thought, but is personal, mildly insightful and honest.
Instead, Rohan starts off simple; talking about all the relatable stuff. He talks about his youth, ageing, navigating the 30s with aplomb and the usual upper middle-class comedic stuff. In the first half he's does his best walking the thin line between a Zakir Khan and a John Mulaney/Mike Birbiglia in terms of material. The introduction has laughs to spare as he engages the audience immediately – setting the tone for the rest of the show. He tackles everything from being a cool uncle, to being financially comfortable to a particularly funny (and NSFW) segment on his love for home renovation.
He then moves on to a segment on marriage, love, kids and being single. He hits a few of the familiar Daniel Sloss-esque notes and has his punchlines timed to perfection to make up for any meandering set-ups. He then segues to a segment on Indian education, attempting to repackage and deliver ICSE, CBSE and SSC jokes we've all heard before. As a reviewer, this was perhaps his weakest and unoriginal segment in the hour-long set, but as I mentioned before, practice makes perfect, so you'll probably laugh your way through with Rohan.
The third act is when he moves into the 'smart comedy' segment, tackling issues like privilege, race, having opinions and a little bit of politics. This segment works primarily because it doesn't lean towards a school of political thought, but is personal, mildly insightful and honest. You will laugh along with the live audience.
Finally, he lands on the titular segment – talking about ganja/weed – and its superiority to other addictions we subject ourselves to. Rohan saves his best for the last, moving from Ganja to Mumbai to ghosts and linking all of it, and the earlier narrative set-ups into one last punchline.
Wake N' Bake is a great start to 2020 for Indian stand up. Rohan delivers a measured, practiced and hilarious special for the home audience. That doesn't mean that it's perfect, or even very smart, incisive and all of that – but yes, Rohan manages to skim over any ebbs in the content with perfectly timed zingers.
He can be considered a veteran in the stand-up scene, given his years with AIB. However, as far as I know, this his first solo venture into the world of streamed/televised stand-up specials. Unlike most other specials one sees on Amazon Prime, this one made me laugh out loud consistently over that one hour. Is the material exceptional and/or incisive? That's a matter of perspective. However, Rohan and 'Wake N' Bake' do have a lesson for other comedians making "relatable and middle class" stand-up comedy specials: Fine-tune your work before you shoot your streaming special.
And maybe ask Rohan for his dealer's number.