Why Mumbai makes The Comedy Store's Alistair Barrie laugh

Why Mumbai makes The Comedy Store's Alistair Barrie laugh

Alistair Barrie sheds some light on the hilarious experiences he's had around the city in preparation for his gig at The Comedy Store
alistair barrie
"I think as time moves on, Indians are going to get sick of hearing material on their traffic," says Barrie.

Actor and comedian Alistair Barrie has been performing professionally for nearly an entire century (this one), says his website. We ask the Englishman what Mumbai stand-up material he's used in his routines at The Comedy Store here over the last weekend and discover one person, at least, who wishes the city's chaos would not change.

Welcome to Mumbai

Almost as soon as he stepped off the plane, Barrie got his first premise -- that there's no shortage of help in Mumbai, but it's always at the wrong time and place. "There are about 15 different people checking your passport at passport control. There’s one person who checks your passport, then another who checks that the first person has checked your passport, then another to check that the second person has checked that the first person has checked and this goes on fifteen times. Yet when you get to a traffic signal, there's just one person controlling that scene."

We love capital jokes

The thing about Mumbai that no one can miss, even if they’re sleep walking, is our style of driving. Nearly every comedian that’s come in from abroad has commented on this. From our love affair with our car horns to 'me-first!' steering, it’s like our traffic is our welcome gift to foreign comics.

"Dave Johns who was MC last week did a bit on Indian traffic. He had a lovely bit about an Indian James Bond getting stuck at the traffic light and the baddies are chasing him on foot. That started as one little idea and over the week became a five minute routine. I think as time moves on, Indians are going to get sick of hearing material on their traffic," says Barrie. 

Currently our other welcome gift to a foreign comic's sense of humor, especially a British comic, is the subject of the Commonwealth Games.

"I've done quite a bit on the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, it's kind of interesting, if you’re in Mumbai, you do jokes about Delhi, and any jokes on Delhi get a huge round of applause. I’m always a bit suspicious of using that device but talking about the fact that Delhi is in no way ready to host the Commonwealth Games, the fact that all the health and safety certificates have been forged, I was reading about the swimming pool, the tiles had come loose, somewhere the ceiling had collapsed, and then one of the ministers saying he hoped it would all go horribly wrong," says Barrie, going on to talk about how he relates as a Brit because they’re preparing for the Olympics and he mentions that most people think it's "going to be s**t".

Indian politics in the capital don't get a break either. "Look at the way people throw chairs at each other in the chamber."

What it's like to stick out

Barrie was here for almost two weeks and didn't miss Indians' love of blatant staring. "I brought my girlfriend with me and she gets stared at because she's blonde. I might have to do some (material) about that sooner or later because she's beginning to get a bit irritated by people on the street corners."

In holy matrimony

If a foreign comic went to an Indian wedding, the material he would get from that would, in all likelihood, be hilarious -- but for now he's settling on reality TV star Rahul Mahajan's engagement. "Rahul Mahajan and Dimpy, I had a bit on that. For a country that has organized marriages you'd think it would be the one place where a TV show about organized marriage would work. But he's not a very nice man is he?"

Sightseeing at the laundry

I asked Barrie what the most interesting day he had was. The answer involved some dirty water, a haggle session and a night at The Comedy Store.

"On Friday the hotel took us out on a trip, we went to a laundry, we looked at it and went, "That’s a laundry?" There were probably a hundred people trying to get money from us so we went back in the car. And then we went to the Haji Ali mausoleum. The walk there was quite interesting. My girlfriend had just sent her jeans back to the laundry for the second time, we called it the sea of death, because it was a black sea. But it was really fun to go out there and see that. And then we went to the Prince of Wales Museum, which isn't the Prince of Wales Museum anymore. I tried to get in on the local rates which is Rs 25 but it was Rs 600 for me. I told the man Rs 25 and he said "Only if you’re Indian". He wouldn’t believe that I was."

Where Barrie does his homework

When I asked him what he does as part of his research he says a comic is always working, he's always 'on'. He watches local television, goes out to local clubs; making the effort because local material is important. "We also go through the newspapers, we most often end up going through the Mumbai Mirror because that's got the most salacious stories," he adds, remembering the Rahul and Dimpy topic.

Mumbai is certainly able to laugh at its own jokes feels Barrie, and the fact that we laugh and groan about our traffic one night and still wake up the next morning to fight it, is pretty incredible. If there ever was an argument to not do anything about the problem it would be because it makes for such good comedy.

Barrie performed at Mumbai's The Comedy Store two weekends in a row. One of his jokes being that the Comedy Store is an English name and like the trend with other Mumbai buildings, should be changed to the Chhatrapati Shivaji store. This upcoming weekend, catch Mickey Hutton, Sean Meo and Glen Wool performing live.

Tickets can be bought at the Comedy Store Box Office, 3rd Floor, Paladium Mall, Phoenix Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel; or at www.bookmyshow.com. Contact The Comedy Store at +91 (0) 22 43485000 or at their Facebook group.

Padmini Harchandrai came into this world armed with three things: a camera, a video editing machine and the city of Bombay.
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