The First Laughter Champion!

{Nidhi Taparia interviewed him on the sets of “The Great Indian Comedy Show” in 2006
An old interview – that can still make you smile!}

The First Laughter Champion!

It must be a Gujju streak – to have a funny bone and know how to make money off it! That’s perhaps what makes Sailesh Dave stand out. Not to miss the fact that his resume reads as the man behind the incredibly successful Movers and Shakers, Star Yaar Kalakaar and now The Great Indian Comedy Show.

His success story, however, has as many twists and turns like the Balaji soaps! And flash back too. Having fallen in love with the idiot box while studying at the Michigan University, Dave gave Indian viewers two incredibly successful shows – Star Yaar Kalakaar and Movers & Shakers! After the laugh-a-thon and incredibly high TRP’s in the late nineties, Dave shut shop in 2000 and went back to marking time as a market and research consultant in Kuala Lumpur. But he couldn’t keep away from television for too long. “It was in my blood and I knew I had to return back to the medium in some format.”

Giving his second innings a go was simple. Star One had an idea. Dave had the knack, experience and the knowledge to convert it to reality. Starting his own production house – Runaway Productions, this 42-year-old tied in with Contiloe Productions to create and execute the Great Indian Comedy Show. He spent four months along with his team as homework for the show. “We did a series of workshops, watched a lot of sketch comedy shows and even broke the joke life into a graph… trust me, to make dumb down everything!”

Putting together the ensemble cast was pretty much a cakewalk. “Everybody I ever wanted to feature on the show has been a part of it. Sure, one would love to have had a Javed Jaffrey or a Satish Shah… But we have the best of the comic actors on the show today.” Dave’s own personal favourites till date on the show is the trio of Suresh-Ranvir-Vinay trio who form the core of The Great Indian Comedy Show. “Watching the three of them in any gag or stand up sort of works completely for me… A takeoff on Black or Anil and Mukhesh Ambani in Deewar style – my favourite moments are way too many!”

A year and a half into the show, Dave still goes through every script, watches every episode and is on the set every time the Great Indian Comedy show has gone through a format change. “I’ve had my ‘aha’ moment on the show. When you watch it being filmed from the monitors and know that it’s all working. Which is why we all strive to keep the quality consistent and to keep it going.”

The success of the Great Indian Comedy show has been a personal high for this MBA and consultant. It may not have set the TRP meter jingling the way Movers and Shakers did, it still remains his own personal favourite. “It has far more freedom and scope to explore different formats and comedy concepts!”

It’s also the only sketch comedy show in the world to be running without a break. “Most sketch comedy shows take breaks or don’t run as often as we do – which is four times a week!” It’s also definitely an ego trip – “the revenge of small guy on the big guns on television” – as Dave puts it succinctly!

What’s next on the anvil for the show is the appearance of many more TV celebrities and stars. “We will have Sumeet Raghavan from Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai. Also Rajesh Khera and a lot of other known TV names are slated to make their appearance.” The only part Dave rues is getting in the celebrities. “On Saturday Night Live, Sharon Stone will make an appearance and take off on her own work. In India, we have found any takers for it yet!”

The show is also perhaps Dave’s own homage to the Saturday Night Live and sketch comedy shows that he spent many hours watching and laughing with. Not to miss the fact that the Indian audiences were showing signs of weaning away from the saas bahu sagas. “Today, everybody wants to laugh… Which is perhaps why Friends has been a long running super-hit the world over and there is a resurgence of comedy all over.”

Dave is keen to ride the wave and carve a niche in the genre. Which is why next on his plate is a show with MTV. Or even a sitcom. “We’ve never really had a funny sitcom after Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi and Dekh Bhai Dekh. I am keen to do one!” He’s also keen to dabble in a drama or a daily but is biding his time before he battles the Kyunki’s and the Kahanis of the world.

But ironically, the man who makes other people laugh – isn’t really having the last laugh! “Can you believe that nobody ever sends me funny SMSes, jokes or forwards?”