Comedy scene has evolved big time in India in the last ten years (since 2010) especially since the leading entertainment channels started giving prime time to shows like Shekhar Suman’s Movers and Shakers followed by the storm of extremely talented names popping up from telanet hunts and comedy shows like Comedy Superstars and The Great India Comedy Show. Also, YouTube gave us mega views around stand up comedy which added to names like Kapil Sharma, Tanmay Bhatt, Zakir Khan, Sugandha Mishra, Bharti Singh as popular as mainstream actors from Bollywood or top TV serials!

This psunami of content flooding youtube has gained from much loved OTT platforms that showed generousity towards the space of comedy off late.

With all this put together, corporate world could not keep itself away when it comes to selection of content for events when they have engage employees, trade of entertain their customers.

Considering the diversity in India on both sides of demand and supply, it gets tricky in terms of comedy artist selection as well the process of identifying the right budget for the same. With the sector being quite unstructured, it gets bit confusing for the corporate and event organiser for doing the match match making. WIth this article, let’s look at demystifying this with real life examples and some tricks of the trade.

Let’s start with the trend seen in year 2020 and 2021 and build from there

Covid made comedy affordable

Due to covid, most of the corporates have been working from home and engaging employees with streaming becoming a great opportunity. Streaming, interestingly created opportunity for the comedians to perform in more than one show on a single day which created an opportunity of hiring a stand-up comedian for almost half of the pre-covid times when it comes to getting them to perform on a ZOOM or MS teams. Searches for comedians have seen unprecedented queries coming in to event companies and employee engagement firms like never before especially since Jan/feb 2021.

Typical price bands when it comes to virtual performances by stand up comedians for the year 2021

INR 50 K – these are emerging stars of comedy. Names that you see in the reality show competition / event hosts who have recently taken a pivot in stand up comedy / started performing at comedy venues but yet to make mainstream.

INR 50 K to 1 Lakh – They are in the circuit for sometime and are names known in their local cities / communities. This at times also has names which were quite prominent in the past but may not be most reading off late. You may be lucky and get names like Ahsaan Qureshi on a better day.

1-2 Lakhs – They are names you surely know of if you are following stand up comedy. These names have great google search volume especially on youtube, are regularly performing at comedy venues and corporate shows. Likely to have been featured in some way at one of the OTT platforms as well. Most of the prominent names of comedy that are fresh and trending are in this bracket. This includes names like Abijit Ganguly, Jeeveshu Ahluwalia, Abhishek Upmanyu, Sorabh Pant and Angad Ranyal. This list may also include vintage names like VIP, Rajiv Thakur and Navin Prabhakar.

Above 2 Lakhs – They are veterans. They are like GodFathers of comedy scene. They get the venue sold out and streaming events go housefull. They command huge social fan following and command a great respect and hence price as well :). Names like Vir Das, Kenneth Sebastian, Zakir Khan, Amit Tandon, Vikram Sathaye, Biswa, Abish Mathew, Vipul Goyal and Rahul Subramanian features here.

How do you arrive at the final cost to hire a stand up comedian for your event?

Here are the 5 parameters using which you can look at arriving at the cost for a particular comedians

1. Celebrity status?

Typically a known comedian who has good library of content wmae, visible in youtube, have performed at live shows and venues like laughter club etc woudl start with INR 50,000 onwards. Typically a known name which you have seen been discussed and performing regularly at corporate shows starts commanding INR 1 Lakh onwards.

2. Length of performance

Usually the standard streaming based performance is 30 minutes which can be stretched to 45 minutes. Anything lengthier than this gets boring and loses the charm amongst the audiences. Comedians hate when the client asks them to break the performance in two or three segments! Its so interesting to see how the artist or the manager responds to such client requests 😉

3. Number of audiences?

Some of the more prominent names are always conscious about this and ask for different rate in case the audiences are increasing more than 500. Typically the artist may ask for 50% premium over and above the standard rate when its a larger audience streaming. Question is why they ask for bigger amount? – Its simple, more than number of audiences get to hear their performance, the artist lose opportunity to monities their content and time in future. Also the client is getting a great deal in return as with only 50% more spends, they can make a multiple number of audiences watch tehe show. This effectively reduces the cost per ticket rate for the client. So in our undertsnading this is quite a fair demand from the artist.

4. Recording the session?

Considering the content creation is a great cost and investment for the comedians, they ask for premium if the the program will be recorded and used by the corporate. Largely they will always have a great resistance for the recording bit as they run the risk of the same content getting circulated and killing the opportunity to monitise the investment by the comedian. There is no pattern in incremental costs that we have seen but we have mostly seen more than double of the cost asked by the artist as minimum benchmark

5. Customisation of content

Comedians can also create a bit of integrations of client company / business / work culture / situations / product etc in the script. Typically an increment of 25% can be expected if the content integrations not more than 5-10 minutes of the overall performance. There is resistance by the comedian in doing this as they are not most confident of the audience response. Also the rest of the content been tested many times and scripted after lot of hit and trial and hence they are fearful of the client related content may not come out that crisp.

How about the biggest names like Kapil Sharma, Sunil Grover and Bharti Singh?

They have escaped the orbit of just been seen as stand up comedians. They are true crowd magnets!

With their stature, they also have invested in content writers and much more of infra to address to unique briefs. This helps to put together extremely unique acts for events. Considering of what they have performed in the past, it is already there in the public domain, creating a customised content is quite a way to engage an artist of this stature. And considering there could be a variety of requirements and hence you don’t have a fixed rate card for this pool of artist. While Bharti, Sunil, Kiku Sand Sudesh do have standard packages as well but for engaging Kapil Sharma you need to approach it very differently.

Article is authored by Nishant Parashar, founder of engage4more

Please note : This article nowhere claims or wants to establish impression of an exclusive arrangement with any of the stand up comedians. These are our trade observations and we might be off the mark in some of the cases. Please do speak with the artist manager of the comedian or your event manager before you apportion a budget towards any of the artist mentioned here.

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