I could start this by stating how hilarious Sumukh Torgalkar is on stage, or I could write about his resolute and unwavering dedication to standup comedy. He's been a hilarious force in the Columbus comedy community for more than eight years, creating and participating in the best local shows this city has seen. Period.
I could start this by stating how hilarious Sumukh Torgalkar is on stage, or I could write about his resolute and unwavering dedication to standup comedy. He’s been a hilarious force in the Columbus comedy community for more than eight years, creating and participating in the best local shows this city has seen. Period.
Instead I’m going to tell you about the visceral impact Torgalkar’s skills can have on those who watch his performance.
A little more than a year ago I traveled with Torgalkar and three other local comics to a show they were doing in Indianapolis. For as many laughs and fun times as I had during that nine-hour trip, there’s one thing that will never leave me: Someone hugged Torgalkar because his performance was that incredible. And funny. And smart. And personable. And genuine. I could go on.
The four comedians had finished their routines and were mingling with the crowd when one of the attendees approached the group and waited patiently behind a gathering of folks offering their praises for the performances. The burly man in his late-twenties politely introduced himself, and offered general accolades to everyone. Then he did something none of us expected. He asked — in an amalgamation of bashfulness and jubilance — if he could “hug Sumukh.”
They hugged (although Torgalkar is more of a “hand shake guy”), and I mean that man laid the biggest bear hug on Torgalkar, repeatedly patting him on the back creating a cacophonous sound with his over-sized paws. Yes, Torgalkar’s comedy has this effect on people.
Fast-forward to next Tuesday, and Torgalkar will be recording his first comedy album — to be released late summer or fall — at the Funny Bone Comedy Club. There will be hugs.
Torgalkar has been a consistently hard-working standup comic dedicated to creating a scene for the art in this community. You’ve probably seen him perform at any number of venues, diligently working new material almost every Wednesday night Surly Girl Saloon’s open mic, being the creative energy (along with Laura Sanders and Justin Golak) behind the monthly “15 and Killin’ It” shows at Wild Goose Creative — a project from 2012-14 where each of the three comedians committed to presenting 15 minutes of new material each month — or opening for Kyle Kinane at Woodlands Tavern in 2013.
Each and every one of these performances led to Torgalkar’s upcoming album recording — a moment that been in the works since he first told jokes to an audience.
“It was always a goal of mine to [record an album] at the Funny Bone. That is the only club in town and I’ve always had a feeling where that was something special. When I started doing standup — as much as I’ve enjoyed all the independent venues and shows we started up — I wanted to get to a point where I could … get good enough that that opportunity would be there,” Torgalkar said in an interview at a local taco joint in late March. “It just seemed like the right time. All the planets aligned with what my goal was throughout my time being in Columbus. It’s the way to go right now.”
For Torgalkar, it’s not just about timing. This is a comedian who records every performance and writes meticulous notes immediately afterwards — even during a four-hour road trip back from Indy at 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday when he has to be at work by 8 the next morning — and keeps a spreadsheet of every joke he’s told over the last eight-plus years. Torgalkar wouldn’t be recording this album, in this way, at this club, if he didn’t feel he could offer the best material — and material that represents who he is as a comedian and a person.
“Feeling both creatively and how I am as a comedian, I’ve reached a certain point where I feel most like myself now. I know that sounds weird; what I put on to a crowd, or what I want to put on an album to be a reflection of who I am,” Torgalkar said. “While I easily could’ve recorded an album three years ago, I think it would have been different. And even material I did three years ago has changed in how it’s presented. I feel this is more me and who I want to be as a comedian, now. It seems like the right moment to present material from the last three to four years [that’s] really refined and with the type of style I want to be doing, continue doing and continue to improve on.”
Anyone who’s followed Torgalkar’s development as a comedian knows this all too well. One of the main reasons he was so stellar that night in Indy was the casual confidence — with momentary hints of self-deprecation — in his stage presence.
“I feel totally comfortable,” Torgalkar said. “It took a lot of time for it, as entertainment, presentation or whatever you might look at standup as, to just feel really comfortable on stage. I definitely feel comfortable in the Funny Bone stage too. It’s just feels like a really good point [in my standup] to finally do an album.”
While Torgalkar’s work ethic and talent have resulted in his best material and a refined stage presence, it’s Columbus that helped him form it. Torgalkar, a Cleveland native, has found a home in the standup comedy corners of Columbus and is proud to recognize it.
“I’ve always had Columbus as my home base and I’ve [organized] a lot of shows and performed a lot of shows here. It just seems so fitting. I want to do it here and at the club that’s been so supportive,” Torgalkar said. “Everything has been so centered on Columbus, and everything developed here for me as a performer. So to me, it’s that — I don’t want to say final chapter because that means it’s over — but it culminates what’s been this really interesting development of not just myself, but comedy here too.”
Photos by Meghan Ralston