Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Canvas Laugh Club, Mumbai - Please Pay Up!

Attention: Stand Up Comedians all around the world

 Serious matter guys. Here’s the set up.

I am a comedian based in Singapore and I write this post with grave concern and as a warning to all with regards to a negative experience with a specific comedy club in the city of Mumbai.

In the month of April 2014, I was hired, along with two other comedians from Hong Kong and The Netherlands, as part of an all-female comedy troupe, to perform at this club. ‘Hired’ might be the incorrect term, as you will learn later in the post.

They booked our flights. (Visa fees were paid by the performers, with a promise of it being reimbursed.)

Fees for the performances were agreed to be confirmed after the show, based on door sales. Upon completion of the show, an invoice was sent to me with the amount due. 

It’s been 6 months since the performance ended, and despite several emails, attempts at phone calls and requests to sort out the payment, nothing has been done. The employee who was dealing with me has also left the job and now there is no correspondence from the club.

Wait, that’s incorrect of me to say. There was one email from someone saying:

“We will look into it.”

They must be looking in the Bermuda Triangle, for they seem lost.

I thought I was alone, but apparently, several other comedians have performed at this club and have not been paid.

My aim of sharing this letter with the comedy community is to let you all know that this club, claiming to be the ‘only full time comedy club in Mumbai’, has allegedly done this with several comedians and we were just their latest victims.

As the one dealing with the club, my international colleagues asked me, “What’s going on with the payment from 6 months ago?”

I just shrug my shoulders, and have no answer.

It’s upsetting because they had heard stories of unprofessionalism, conning and cheating that happens in India, and this was raised as a concern as to whether we should do the show or not. I assured them that we are dealing with a professional team and India has progressed leaps and bounds in terms of professional working ethics, but, alas, I have been proven wrong.

My advice to any comedian who is being offered a show at this full time comedy club : do the gigs, only if you are treating it as an open mic show. DO NOT EXPECT TO GET PAID, regardless of what you are told or promised. If you are making the trip down to the city and the club, insist on cash payment BEFORE you go on stage. Otherwise, refuse to do the show.

Alternatively, avoid the club completely. There are many comedians in Mumbai who have the integrity, class and talent to put on a solid show, so if you like, I am happy to share those contacts with you.

The venue, staff and set up will make it tempting for you to do a show for nothing, because it’s a fab room with a great crew. So if you’re going in with that mindset, fair enough.  

However, if you are someone who wants comedy to flourish, and be a viable career option in your country, I propose you choose to work with someone who has a similar goal.

The audience in Mumbai is top notch and a joy to perform to, so don’t let your first show in the beautiful city with beautiful people be mired by an ugly experience.

To all comedians out there: you are a ‘stand up’ comedian, not a “get walked all over and exploited’ comedian.

Warmest Regards,

Sharul Channa
Singaporean Stand-up Comedian