After impressing legendary mime artist Marcel Marceau at a theatre competition in Mumbai, comedy lover Sanjay Shihora found his way to Berlin via Paris. 28 years later he’s still here, running his own successful comedy club in Prenzlauer Berg and attracting big international names to his cosy stage.
There were two serendipitous moments that changed the course of Sanjay Shihora’s life. The first was in 1986, when, at 18 years old, he won a theatre competition in Mumbai judged by none other than Marcel Marceau. The famous French mime artist invited Indian-born Shihora to study at his school in Paris. So Sanjay Shihora moved to Paris.
It was at a workshop there that he met Berlin native Svenja, and it was love at first sight. They left for Berlin together in 1991, and in 2001 it was time to take the leap of faith and open their own theatre. “After years of touring with the comedy show, we wanted to build a home base,” says Sanjay Shihora. The location, a former bank on Schönhauser Allee in Prenzlauer Berg, made the perfect setting for a comedy stage with an audience of around 100.
Today it’s a tasteful, unpretentious space with photographs of artists lining the walls and a small counter with refreshments offered at fair prices. Since it first opened, the theatre has featured great acts for fans of comedy and cabaret on almost every night of the week. Famous performers such as Kurt Krömer and Eckart von Hirschhausen have made guest appearances, and at the open stage on Sunday at 7pm, anyone can try their hand at comedy. There is even an English night every Tuesday.
The eponymous kookaburra is an Australian bird whose call sounds like laughter. It was Sanjay Shihora’s dream come true. From the age of three, he spent his Sundays at the children’s theatre and participating in children’s radio programs. “Indian humor can be pretty dark,” he says. “German humour, on the other hand, is a mixed bag.” After 18 years, Comedy Club Kookaburra can be roundly declared a success.
“Small-time artists are masters in the art of living,” says the friendly proprietor. It’s not often you meet someone who is so at one with himself. “I may be small, but I am my own little boss. I am truly thankful for that.” And does he see Berlin as his home now? “Home is wherever I happen to be. As long as I feel at home, then that’s where I am.”
All photos by Lena Ganssmann
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Comedy Club Kookaburra
Schönhauser Allee 184, 10119 Berlin-Mitte
T (030) 486 231 86
Tue–Sat from 7pm, Sun from 6pm