Despite a bunch of good performers, Comicstaan 2 manages to lose steam for no reason. Does Amazon need to start afresh?

Only a year ago, Comicstaan 1 dropped at a time when the Indian OTT scene was just about testing the ground. It came as a whiff of fresh air: while everyone was going gangster and drama, it pointed comedy lovers to some stupendous talent, many of whom have been doing well since.

Comicstaan 2 (C2) concluded a day after Sacred Games 2 (SG2) dropped, and in the 12 months between the two editions, a lot has happened in the Indian digital scene. People are now pissed off with SG2, and C2 has been getting a lot of soc-med piss. As the Indian OTT scene goes through its first churn, these two shows seem to have taken the worst hit. It’s something for the makers, and the industry as a whole, to chew on — way above my pay grade.

With that out of the way, how good is Comicstaan 2 on its own? I’d say ‘very’. It is seriously well hosted by Abish Matthew and Uruj Ashfaq. We get three new judges, all good additions — Neeti Palta, Zakir Khan and Sumukhi Suresh. And the 10 contestants come right out and hit the ball out of the park.

From Supriya’s pornoisseurs to Rohan’s telemessages, to Raunaq’s mixed set, to Samay’s PSAs to Devanshi’s moral science, to Joel’s crayons, to Shreeja’s dustbin lids, to Sumit’s Jeete Raho to Ramya’s danger signs and Aakash’s cooking show jokes, the 10 good ones smoked their first round. And how! They are all strong, individualistic and punchy sets. But the second episode onwards, no matter who the mentor is, or what the topic is, the quality keeps yo-yoing and taking a hit, episode by episode.

The show in its entirety let me down in a way the individual contestants did not. Having said that, some points and awards:

First of all: Take scoring out of the hands of the studio audience. Let them just pay for the privilege of watching something special live. It made sense for television studios to allow audiences a say in the judging for TRPs’ sake 10 years ago; it doesn’t anymore.

Best episodes: The opener, and the finale, with Kenny Sebastian’s (7th episode) running close. The first episode clearly laid out the talent on show, and probably because of how good that was, the rest of the season was a slow downward spiral. Until… The finale! The boys set the stage on fire with some risqué sets, and Supriya went gloriously bonkers merely celebrating the fact that she made it to the Royal Opera House. This mix for the finale was made possible by a fabulously waakda penultimate episode where the tables were turned.

I’d pay good money to watch: Shreeja Chaturvedi and Supriya Joshi. These two are Ali Wong good, and if they block out bad advice and keep trusting themselves, they have good things ahead.

The Aishwarya Mohanraj F**k You award: When all was lost after six rounds last year, Aishwarya gloriously anointed herself as the best comic with her 10-on-10-from-all-judges presentation. Devanshi did a diss set in her own muted style, and boy, did it have those who rated her poor, squirming.

Best Judge: Kaneez Surkha and episodes mentored by her are always eminently watchable, and Kenny was deservedly show winner, but Kanan Gill’s first episode set the stage and tone, even if the potential unfortunately was never realised from there on. That makes Kanan’s mentoring stand out even more than it should.

Which brings us to what may really be the problem with the show: I had seen videos of some of the contestants even before they were on Comicstaan 2, and those sets were way better than anything they performed on the show. Maybe, the real problem that the makers need to address is: Don’t bring in established names and make them boring; take in fresh talent and make them exciting. Here’s to Season 3.

The Prashasti award for Best Comic who did not win:

Would have been Samay Raina had he not finished where he did. So, Rohan Gujral it is. He was outstanding and only the makers can say why and how he did not make it to the top 5. But no need to fret, cos, he is going to set the Mumbai scene alight.

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