Dream Gig: Suchandrika Chakrabarti

Suchandrika Chakrabarti, stand-up and co-host of the But Is It Funny? podcast with Brian Logan and Jamal Khadar, shares her heavenly Dream Gig with us

Article by Suchandrika Chakrabarti | 14 Mar 2023
  • Suchandrika Chakrabarti's Dream Gig

My best-ever gig was my second one. It took place at The Bill Murray in London, at the end of a six-week stand-up course that had given me the permission I didn’t know I’d needed to try out comedy. More specifically, the gig happened at the end of February 2020 so really propelled my live comedy career.

Even though it was 3pm on a Sunday, our friends and family had really come through, and the place was packed. Four of my close friends were set to bring their babies, with one of the four volunteering to sit out the gig and look after them in the bar area. 

The atmosphere in the room was genuinely electric, with an edge of excitement that I’ve not encountered often since. Our teacher, Ben Target, opened the event, then MC Chris Betts did some material. I was waiting at the back of the room, feeling the adrenaline rise. I headed up onto the stage… and that’s when I found out that the childcare arrangements had fallen apart, and my friends had brought a baby into the room. Then the wailing began.

I was getting heckled by a baby. By a baby I knew! The betrayal. Still, my set was about imagining what the future would be like for my then 18-month-old niece, so it kind of worked for my material. The rest is a blur, but I loved the experience, and the audience was incredible. 

The video of that performance changed my life. After the lockdown hit, I sent it into competitions and ended up placing in semi-finals and finals, which made me think that comedy could be more than just a hobby.

That baby is now four and I’ve forgiven her, but I’ll never forget – in fact, I worked that story into my first Edinburgh show last year. 

My dream gig would take place in one of the candlelit caves that make up Gordon’s Wine Bar on the Strand in London, by the Thames. A wine-tipsy audience is probably the sweet spot for me. That electric feeling from my best-ever gig is in the air.

Natasha Lyonne is MC for the night. Anything she says in her iconic gravelly New York accent will get the crowd revved up; she’s hosted Saturday Night Live so this will be a breeze; plus, I love how she says the word ‘cockroach’ - “cock-a-roach”. She knows what she’s doing up there, and she’s more than capable of dealing with the chaotic characters on the line-up. 

First up, we’ve got my friend and brilliant stand-up Fatiha El-Ghorri opening the show. She plays with her effect on the audience as a woman wearing a hijab who then comes out with a proper Hackney accent and surprisingly violent but endearing threats. Her stand-up taught me the phrase “throwing hands.” She’s already on TV and she’s going to be huge, so I’m honoured that she’s here. 

Next up is her comedic opposite, Bill Bailey. He’s performing his classic Love Song (the metal version, if you’d like to know) The calm before the storm, because the next act arrives very suddenly towards the end of Bill’s set, shouting “Woof!” a lot – yep, it’s our boy Lord Flashheart, and making Bill’s metal melody his walk-on music. Flashheart’s set is pure joyous, slanderous filth that can never be repeated outside of that room.

Before he’s done, though, Oda Mae Brown, as played by Whoopi Goldberg, wanders onstage (MC Natasha Lyonne is not running a tight ship here, and she’s got the tone exactly right). Oda Mae’s set is kind of a weird seance with jokes, which does explain how we’re able to resurrect two people for the gig tonight (Rik Mayall of course, and then…) 

… it’s a dream line-up, so naturally my dad has to be on it. He died in April 2003 (don’t worry, this hasn’t secretly been a dead dad show all along, I’ll keep it light), but he’d never miss a good party, and so much of the reason I do stand-up is because of him. He’s headlining.

I’m not on this mixed bill – it’s nice to sit this one out and just watch the shenanigans unfold. Post-gig, the performers get full on the free cheeseboard and Scotch eggs which are being handed round and a couple of bottles of Beaujolais. I’ll be on the wine too, and we’ll sit down to talk about the afterlife until the candles flicker out.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti: Doomscrolling (WIP), Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Van Winkle West End, 22 Mar, 8.15pm, £4-5
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