High on laughs

Ambika Shaligram
Thursday, 15 March 2018

Omkar Rege talks about his stand-up comedy acts and how at the core, he is a writer

Surely, this will elicit laughter or maybe a stunned expression to say the least — a guy attends a spoken word poetry session and talks of Kacchi Dabeli, and how it didn’t work up his appetite. That’s Omkar Rege, a stand-up comedian and a passionate writer, working in a digital media company.  

During his stand-up comedy act, organised by BhaDiPa (Bharatiya Digital Party) on International Women’s Day in Pune, Omkar turned to Dabeli again; apps that deliver our food and keep us updated every second, to remind us that ‘your delivery is on its way’. We catch up with him to know more about his writing, poetry and ingenious humour.    

From working class to comedy
Omkar, who hails from Goa, calls himself a ‘working class guy’ and turned to stand-up comedy slowly and steadily. “I loved being funny from my core. But I never thought I would actually go out there and do it. I always wanted a stable job, doing the stuff that I liked, which was writing,” says he. 

Considering that Omkar is still writing, made a web series with a friend, and has a YouTube channel Donkey Hot Hai, why did he turn to stand-up comedy? “It was a combination of a lot of factors — the shows that I was watching, the books that I was reading, etc. So in 2015, I just jumped onto the Pune scene. I started attending spoken poetry and open mic sessions and cracking jokes. That was kind of weird because the people attending the shows weren’t really there to laugh. They would come together to talk about world problems, nepotism and I would go and talk about Dabelis. The setting wasn’t the one that called for laughter. So yes, it was frustrating for the audience as well as for me. I also tried doing spoken word poetry. I tried to adapt to whatever was available. But I didn’t like mixing up two segments. I like poetry, but I didn’t want to perform it. So I drifted away from it.” 

Then at a show in Baner, he met five other comics. A group was formed and together they started looking for venues, open mic sessions and got Pune stand-up comedy scene started, so to say. “I guess once you get on the stage and get laughs, no one is ever going to stop doing it,” he adds. 

Why Dabeli?
When asked the very predictable question about material for his jokes, Omkar is reluctant to answer. Says the journalism graduate, “I don’t think we should be talking material. The way I entered the comic world, the comics I have admired — they all have something ‘personal’ about their acts. What I consider as a good comic, is someone who can make you feel what he is feeling, and not merge in with the crowd. I will probably look at a tree and then find out what is funny about it. That’s my way of approaching comedy.” 

So when people invite the youngster to parties, or events, promising him that he will get a ‘lot of material’ for his shows, Omkar’s reply is, ‘I don’t care about you, to observe you closely and to crack a joke about you. Why can’t I just come over, eat the Biryani you serve and go back home?’ 

Another question that irritates him is, ‘How do you come up with jokes?’

“If I could figure that out, I would write a joke every second. Sometimes it happens that you eat one Dabeli and it’s not good and you start writing about it. I talk about a lot of different things and I can’t pinpoint how I came up with it,” he adds.  

Marathi stand-up comedy
Omkar is more comfortable in English stand-up comedy than Marathi. “I didn’t study Marathi in Goa. Whatever Marathi I learnt was in Pune. Sarang (Sathaye) who founded BhaDiPa, had this idea that we should enter the regional comedy scene because there was a market for it. He gathered a few people and I happened to be associated with them, because I work for the company that handles the digital marketing for BhaDiPa. He asked me if I would like to do it in Marathi. I wasn’t confident, but took it up. Currently, I do independent shows, with BhaDiPa and other comics.” 

Omkar is sure that he wants to keep at it, but doesn’t ever want to make it a burden where his kitchen depends on stand-up comedy shows. “I am a writer. I like sitting alone in a room and writing,” he emphasises. 

Socio-political influences
During his recent show, Omkar cracked a joke about the Gujarat model taking over the entire country, which elicited laughter. The audience probably thought of Modi, but the comic was referring to Dabeli. 

“That’s the fun of language and how you use it. You draw the political inference from it. Right now, I can say what I want. Probably, in the next few years, if we have armed guards standing inside the auditorium, we just have to use our language in such a way that everyone else is laughing, but the guards don’t know what’s happening. Politics is a strong element of stand-up and it always will be, we need to laugh about our problems. We also need to find our way around censorship,” he says before signing off.  

ST Reader Service 
Catch Omkar Rege in action at an open mic night on March 23, 8 pm, at Coffee Republic on Law College Road. The show will be in English.

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