Stand-up comic Sorabh Pant explains what tickles Indians,without offending anyone. And fails.
I make jokes for a living. Its a pretty silly thing to do. Then I see journalists,politicians and Grand Masti,and realise that others too make jokes for a living only they dont know it yet. Take Grand Masti: a film in which the biggest joke is that its marketed as a comedy,when its a visual Khushwant Singh Joke Book with pages filled with pop-ups of cleavage. Its a golden formula. You could have made Lagaan with this formula: three out of 11 players in Bhuvans team would be item girls,four other girls would be cheerleaders,and the team would be called The Leg Slips.
Indians love innuendos. Oh,we love it! If your punchline is an innuendo,there is a cataclysmic look on the audiences face because all the surface repression weve been programmed to have towards sex is suddenly defeated by the inner Kama Sutra stored in our psyche by our forefathers who embraced their non-veg side with great bendiness.
While were repressed but embracing of sex jokes,were also blatant about our disapproval of religious ones. As comedians,weve seen it everywhere. You could make a joke about Sooraj Barjatya someone would get offended. You could make a joke about pigs someone would get offended. You could make a joke about a tree and Mangliks would get offended. Oh,well laugh at jokes about other religions but as soon as it comes to ours,we get worked up. As if a religion built on centuries of strength can just collapse because of a dumb joke.
If you find yourself in a tight spot,any jokes on our netas will give a Government Quota to your jokes i.e. a head start. Thats why whenever a politician slips up (every hour),every comedian celebrates. A breaking story follows with a breaking joke. Whether its Chidambaram trying to placate Indians over the falling rupee: Chidu tells us to relax as 1£ hits 103 Rs. Hes like a violinist on the sinking Titanic: trying to calm us with sounds when we need action!. Rajnath Singh claiming English ruined India: From his POV: Rajnath Singh is right. English HAS ruined India. If Rajiv didnt speak English,he wouldnt have spoken to Sonia,etc. Even Raj Babbar saying Indians could eat well for Rs. 12: Went to this new burger joint. Everything was Rs 12. I loved Babbar King.
Jokes about the UPA are met with joyous applause because of their joyous ineptitude for a decade. BJP jokes dont yet get a similar response. If laughs were an exit poll,the 2014 elections are going to be a tie between BJP,Sachin,SRK and Raghuram Rajan. Sorry,UPA,the laughs have spoken.
Indian humour changes geographically: every city is an island floating upon a country in a disconnected manner. Mumbai has the most honed crowds: they allow you to experiment. Delhi wants what Mumbai crowds want,but with a sprinkling of abuse. Bangalore wants what Mumbai crowds want,but with a dollop of sophistication. Pune wants what Delhi wants,but a touch louder; and Hyderabad doesnt know what it wants. Even a Hyderabad crowd doesnt know how a Hyderabad crowd will respond. This example sounds like Tarla Dalal discussing comedy.
As comedians,were lucky. Were in an industry where our consumers are educated and well-travelled; theyve been to the abroads,or gone to the abroads free on the youtubes. It also helps that they have money to waste on us! They allow us to experiment and push the envelope and they havent sued us yet (OK,theyve sued us only thrice). Also,theyre usually really,really drunk.
They know that comedians rarely come in with any agenda. Some people think that if I make a Rahul Gandhi joke,Im pro-Modi. If I make Modi jokes,Im pro-Rahul. Maybe,Im just pro-jokes!
The greatest thing about India is that we have got so much to make fun of: netas,Bollywood,cricket,communities,cities,states; we have got different varieties of men and women,religions and much more. Its like a vending machine of jokes. Thank God,we have people who know this. If we get bigger,the problem is that some idiot,who doesnt represent the majority of the population,has the power to shut down a joke just because (s)he thinks it upsets their morality. I got a joke about a really sexy pig in lingerie,who shunned religion in favour of an innuendo,that Id like to share with these people. I hope someone laughs.
Pant is the founder of Indias busiest comedy company,The East India Comedy