‘Am I ready to do my Special?’ – the Huge Standup Comedy Dilemma – Karthik Kumar


I was backstage at CLC last week, closing my Finale show of #PokeMe – my first comedy special, and I heard this question being posed rhetorically –  ‘Am I ready to do my Special?’ – followed by comments by others in a interesting discussion ‘Everybody is doing one’ ‘Whats the point’ ‘How good will it be?’…

I gulped to myself thinking -‘F*&% how audacious must I have seemed to embark on my first one, and what am I thinking that I’m onto my 2nd, a few months from now?!’ – and a million answers and accompanying questions came to me in one big wave – This is a worthy dilemma and I can answer this from my perspective, having just completed and laid to rest my first Special – with a heavy heart and much drama, and some ruthlessness of amputation!

So, what’s a good reason to put a Special out?

Good Enough Reason – ‘I have been playing the circuit for a long  time – I need to put a Special out.’ This way you get to test whether an audience, and You, together have the appetite for a 90 min version of You, and You get to test your Stamina to do a 90min Comedy show. What is a Long time? If you feel you have been playing the circuit for ‘too long’, then it has been Long enough!

Good Reason – ‘I feel ready, and i know I’m going to Fill houses coz I have built that equity and following, and its time to test it all – my Content, its saleability and the Reception, and the word of mouth thereafter!’ The greatest wealth that a Comic brings to a producer who books you for a Gig is this – first is the ability to draw in audiences, which in our cases means a basic set of audiences who are searching out for you, usually who you interact with through Social media, with Videos and Funny Tweets and an such ongoing virtual (and maybe even Real) engaging conversation, who will eventually BE willing to put money where their mouth and fingertips are; and secondly the assurance that once the audience is in you will Deliver! Both are key! In #PokeMe, I felt rotten whenever I wasn’t able to fill a house for a trusting Producer – after all it was my Special! Feeling bad when you don’t Deliver a good show needn’t even be mentioned here – thats an ongoing self mutilation we subject ourself to anyway!


Worst Reason – ‘Put together, I have exceeded 60 mins of Material – high time I put a special out!’ Its not a question of Quantum of Material, but of a feeling of readiness that you must measure… Are you ready and do you feel eager – don’t do it coz youhave to, or people say its time! And hey what if you choose to fine comb that 60+ mins of Material – would it still be 60+ or a Fabulous 45? Fine Comb it – its after all called a ‘Special’!
Do you have at least 60 that is applicable to go all over the current venues of the country – or is it 60 that will work in your local city, and if you travel it around it collapses to 30? Not that going around the country is mandatory- but you get to play your special many more times, in diverse spaces, and that way you learn more!

Worst Worst Reason – ‘I have a super 45 mins – i just need to add crown interaction and I can make it 60!’  Crowd work makes a fab 60 into an Epic 80 – Crowd work can’t be a filler for Content, and vice versa!

Best Reason – ‘The Market is knocking and banging my door to get a Special out of me’ At some point the need for a Special comes from the market – the audience, the producers, the frat – that’s a fabulous sign to get that going then! No better motivation to get that Engine started and running…

Having said that is it mandatory to have a Special as a ritual of ‘Coming of Age’ for a Standup Comic – not really… its like a Puberty function – you can choose to celebrate it with one, and make it a mighty (torrid!) fun affair… else you just let nature call it and find your next landmark – whatever else it maybe :)

Which means at the Watercooler, if you come and flex your muscles saying ‘Just did my Special’ – be ready to be judged with a look that says ‘Ha! You hope that’s what she said!’! There is nothing Special in your special except what you think is Special! But what you think is important…

Iv seen some Mighty Awesome First Specials recently – I don’t even know where mine would rank amongst them – but I’m not Ranking stuff… I did #PokeMe when I knew I could Fill houses and I had the best 60+ for an audience – it became 2 hour shows in my Home markets, and a 80 min show in New markets – it was fun all over, and i just about managed to Please old audiences and New alike… Phew! Producers want my next one and thats a good sign – Audiences feel its time to have something new – and thats a good pressure to have as well… I retired it coz I had had enough – and the market felt it could have gone on just a little longer… but the first reason superceded it :)


Was it Special? Yes for me it certainly was. Audience seemed to think so, and Producers are happy to see another one coming – so lets open that door…

Karthik Kumar

About EVAM

Founded in 2003 by Sunil Vishnu K. and Karthik Kumar, ‘evam’ today is a profitable young thriving arts organization making people believe in the power of the Arts.
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