Comedius Interruptus: Seinfeld organizer cancels show

March 13, 2015

Jerry Seinfeld will not perform in Mumbai. The organizer behind the stand-up comedian and television sitcom star’s live shows in Mumbai, scheduled for March 14 and 15, cancelled the events after the Mumbai police department expressed concern over the amount of parking spaces that organizers scheduled for the show, according to the group’s chief executive.

Seinfeld, whose hit U.S. show of the same name ran from 1989 to 1998, was scheduled to arrive in Mumbai on Friday night. On Wednesday, the Mumbai Mirror reported that the organizers were running into trouble because the police said that the event could cause traffic snarls and parking hassles because of the expected large turnout for his show.

“It was a lot of things – we couldn’t figure out alternate parking and traffic arrangements, and it wasn’t possible to reschedule his travel. The chief minister attended a programme at the same venue a while back and that caused a lot of traffic delays. They didn’t want it repeated,” a source associated with the event told Reuters.

Here’s what happened, according to Vijay Nair, chief executive of OML, or “Only Much Louder,” the event’s organizer:

The police department’s traffic division gave permission for the show on March 7, but later asked if Seinfeld could perform on Friday or Monday instead. The reason was that the Maharashtra state government recently issued a notice that the venue should not host weekend events. Because neither was possible, Nair said, OML cancelled Seinfeld’s and his crew’s charter flight. Following that, he said, the police said they would make an exception. At that point, it was too late to rearrange another charter, he said.

A police official was not immediately available for comment. Firstpost, meanwhile, cites Kaiser Khalid, additional commissioner of police (traffic), as saying that they did grant permission to the show to take place.

Tickets to the Seinfeld show were nearly sold out, Nair said. Ticket prices ranged from 7,500 to 12,500 rupees, or about $120 to $199, a price far above what many people in India can afford.  The nation’s 2014 per capita income, by contrast, was projected last year at 74,920 rupees, according to various news reports, or about $1,200. That’s about $100 a month. Even for a Mumbai white-collar worker who earns, say, 100,000 rupees a month, or about $1,600, the price of a cheap seat can seem steep.

Nair would not say how much the event and its cancellation cost. “Don’t even go there,” he said. “It’s too depressing. Let’s just say it’s the biggest loss we’ve ever faced from any event.”

The NSCI stadium in Worli, an up-market area of Mumbai, can hold about 4,000 people. The event is located near the seaface, and is close to upmarket residential areas and the Mumbai racecourse. It is owned by the National Sports Club of India, which also runs it day to day.

The event that caused the state of Maharashtra to stop weekend shows at the NCSI was a charity fashion show that the state’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis attended on March 1. Club members were irked when police officers stopped vehicle traffic to let the minister’s convoy through to the event, and there were scuffles between members and police and accusations from the minister’s rivals that he was perpetuating VIP culture.

The cancellation comes after a comedy group, called AIB or “All India Bakchod,” was forced to apologise to Christians in India and remove a YouTube video of a comedy roast that it held in December in Mumbai. Several religious groups filed complaints against AIB, saying the adult nature of the jokes and the profanity used didn’t suit Indian culture.

The source associated with the event said the content of the shows had no connection with the cancellation.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan. Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Robert @bobbymacReports | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission.)

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