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Comedy Nights With Kapil – A Look Into The Rise Of The Show And Its Cast

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Its a job that’s understood to be hard, vicious and lonely and yet it involves giving people moments of happiness. Stand-up comedy is not easy but if you have the talent, it can surely take you places. This feature looks at the rise of the extremely popular Indian television show Comedy Nights with Kapil which has made its host and leading cast members extremely popular in a short span of time.

Like many other forms of entertainment, stand-up comedy too owes its roots to the land of the Queen where it began in the music halls during the 18th and 19th centuries. An interesting bit of trivia indicates that the association of the color ‘blue‘ with anything considered bawdy, smutty or adult comes from the practice of editing the acts of stand-up comedians by the British royal household using blue ink. The popularization of stand-up comedy however can be credited to the United States of America which is the land that sets most of the global trends in the 21st century.

North American stand-up comedy has its roots in various traditions of popular entertainment of the late 19th century including vaudeville, English Music Hall, Minstrel shows, humorist monologues by personalities such as Mark Twain and circus clown antics. Comedians of this era often donned an ethnic persona—African, Scottish, German, Jewish—and built a routine based on popular stereotypes. Its likely that if you were asked to name popular stand-up comedians today the names you would think of would be the likes of American personalities such as Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, Jon Stewart etc.

All of these media icons have many things in common with one another. Their claim to fame is normally linked to just one highly successful television show. Most of these productions are talk shows with really talented hosts who take digs at popular news from the world of politics, sports, entertainment or anything else that is trending. Once the show becomes successful it becomes a marketing vehicle for Hollywood movies, music albums, books by popular authors etc and the episodes are frequented by famous celebrities from all walks of life. The format of such programs is fairly straightforward and shouldn’t be hard to replicate in other countries and language. There is however a big barrier to entry which lies in finding the right host.

17 years ago, in 1997, the concept of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show was brought to India. It was titled Movers and Shakers. Shekhar Suman, a reasonably popular television actor known to have a funny bone became the host. As one would expect the show became a runaway hit for the first few seasons given its unique format, localized content and the presence of a talented host. However, as time passed and the number of entertainment options on Indian television began to broaden, the show’s popularity got affected and eventually it was discontinued. Shekhar Suman took the concept of the show to other Indian channels and eventually became a recognized face on the Indian comic scene. However he couldn’t emulate the success of his American counterparts like Jay Leno and David Letterman who only recently retired from their respective shows after hosting them continuously for a few decades.

Many other Indian television channels tried to emulate the success of Movers and Shakers, by launching alternative formats involving stand-up comedy. The most noticeable among these were Comedy Circus and the Great Indian Laughter Challenge which were in themselves spin-offs of popular American shows like Whose Line Is it Anyway and Last Comic Standing.

Multiple seasons of these shows unearthed a number of good stand-up comics however none of those winners could go on to create a truly successful talk show which could bring together two highly potent forces, comedy and celebrities. The wait for an insanely popular Indian equivalent of Jay Leno, David Letterman continued till June 22, 2013 when Colors TV, a unit of Viacom18 launched Comedy Nights With Kapil.

Behind every mega-success lies an experience of struggle, which enables a smart and ambitious person to out-think his competitors and rise to the top through perseverance and hard work. The same holds true for Kapil Sharma who hails from Amritsar and comes from humble roots.

His father was an officer with the Punjab Police Department but suffered from cancer. Kapil was good with theater and stand-up comedy but needed to support his father for treatment during his fight against cancer. To make ends meet he started teaching theatre at the college. At about the same time, a stand up comedy show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge started airing on Star One. The show saw many known stand up comedians like Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Bhagwant Mann take part.

Kapil knew that his spontaneity and histrionics would take him places. He participated in Season 3 of the show but was rejected during the auditions. His friend Chandan Prabhakar (who plays the role of Raju in Comedy Nights with Kapil) got through. Undeterred he auditioned again, got selected and went on to win the season in 2007.

Kapil’s entry to superstardom began when he started his show “Comedy Nights with Kapil“. He met Preeti Simoes during the shooting of Comedy Circus. Together they formed K9 Production House which is one of the producers of Comedy Nights with Kapil. Preeti Simoes and Kapil Sharma have put together a stellar star cast for the show which has stolen the hearts of millions of Indians around the world: Ali Asgar (as Daadi or Grandmother), Sumona Chakravarti (as Kapil’s on screen wife), Sunil Grover (as Gutthi), Upasana Singh (as Bua) and Kiku Sharda (as Palak).

Each of the characters, essayed by the actors above, have found a connect with the audiences, since they relate to the common roles that people naturally essay in Indian households.

The popularity of the show has opened multiple avenues for the cast as they are now regularly invited to perform at film festivals, award ceremonies and live shows. Kapil Sharma’s unique gifts of being an excellent comic artist, singer and voice actor has also led him to the world of Bollywood where he is likely to make his debut under the umbrella of YashRaj Film’s or Sohail Khan’s next movie.