“Life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy to those who think.” – Horace Walpole
Of late, the stand-up comedy industry in India has boomed exponentially. Back in the days, there were only a few people in the scene like Johnny Lever, Raju Shrivastava, Sunil Pal, amongst a few others. But now people from different professions (IT, advertising, engineering, banking, and many others) who have a knack for making people laugh are taking it up as a full-time job. No profession can exist if there is no market for the consumption of the product or service that is being produced by the professionals. As such, people who are consuming stand-up comedy in our country as everyday entertainment have also increased in recent years. This is because of growing popularity of stand-up comedy in pubs and cities, which is most probably a result of rapid urbanization and stressful corporate jobs.
From culture-specific quirks, dating and relationship blues to the people we encounter in our daily lives; our comedians have it all covered. A little more than a decade ago, this was not the case as most of the stand-up comedy was focused on mimicry of public figures. Russell Peters and Vir Das could be considered the pioneers of the stand-up comedy revolution in our country. And now there are numerous other comics on the block. After all, who thought that two lifeless fruits like the banana and the pomegranate could generate humour? That’s where Biswa Kalyan Rath comes in with his unique brand of observational humour to tickle our funny bones. Some comedians are also using humour as a tool of subversion to talk about greater socio-political issues. As for instance, in Kunal Kamra’s viral stand-up act “Patriotism and the Government”, he satirically targets the ruling government’s hollow rhetoric of “nationalism”. However, comedians who deal with political topics in their acts often have to become targets of hate-speech and intense social media trolling.
There has also been a spurt of stand-up comics from different pockets and regions of the country. As for instance, Aravind SA has risen to popularity by talking about his experiences of being a Madrasi in India. Through his acts, he tries to dismantle the notion of the uniform “South-Indian” identity which homogenizes people belonging from the southern part of India without taking their unique cultural differences into account. As in all other professions, the gender ratio in stand-up comedy is also skewed. In this light, shows like “Queens of Comedy” have successfully challenged the stereotype that “women aren’t funny” by bringing out more female comedians to the forefront. Thus, stand-up comedy has established itself as an all-relative cultural and social phenomenon in our country.
With increasing popularity of online media platforms like YouTube and Amazon Prime Video, stand-up comics are now getting widespread recognition with their solo shows and acts. However, its access and reach are still restricted to a mostly urban, city-dwelling, English speaking audience because most of the content is produced digitally and consumed in English. Nevertheless, the stand-up comedy culture has enabled comics to recollect their own experiences, project their own anxieties as well as critique social order and governmental policies through the medium of humour. As Trevor Noah had rightly said in an interview, when one is able to see the funny side of something, it becomes easier to deal with the situation at hand, no matter how dire.
– Contributed by Ankita
Picture Credits: filmcompanion.in