Comedian Kunal Kamra was recently in news when he deleted his Twitter account after his ‘jokes’ on Muslims, Sikhs and Mother Teresa went viral. However, he later clarified that these jokes would leave the audience in splits, but he has now outgrown the trope of getting laughed at at the expense of the lesser privileged, and wants to “punch up and not punch down”. Now, it is the comedian’s Facebook post that has got people talking. Kamra, who had earlier received death threats for his stand-up act on politics and government, shared a screenshot of the conversation he had with who seems like his land-lady. The chat shows her asking Kamra to shift from their house.
He went on to share a piece of his mind with younger comedians in the post, thereafter. He said he did not have any advice on comedy for them, except for the things that he has experienced being one. He said harbouring a political opinion comes at a cost because it is difficult to see opportunities slip by because you might make jibes at the government and politicians, while a colleague will upload a photo performing at the same place with the caption, “What an honour it was to be working for this for this brand”.
Read his entire post, here.
I don’t have any comedy advice for you. I just wanted to share a few things that I have experienced:
As a comedian having a political opinion comes at a cost. Perhaps, you are thinking ‘What is the big deal in making fun of people in power?’…But there are consequences. A corporation will call you 2 days before your show and say “Sorry, We’ll have to cancel this one because our CEO is a big fan of the PM and we don’t want any political jokes”. You protest as you asked them this exact question 40 days ago…but they respond saying “He only joined last week, but let us work together on something soon”.
Or you are booked for a news conclave kind of event when someone from a political party decides to show up at the last minute. You get a call saying “We don’t want to take a risk as our guests are really powerful people who we can’t piss off, so we are entirely cancelling the comedy session”. The next day you see a photo of another comedian performing there saying “What an honour it was perform at….”
Private shows are mostly out of the question because they want clean family friendly humour (most are wedding enquiries). Brands commission you to work, get you to make a piece and then don’t use it at all because “He’s ok but his affiliations with these radical activist types could land us into trouble. You know people na… they just nitpick at everything”. Then you see a colleague posting “What an honour it was to be working for this for this brand”.
Public figures who have some power will continuously tell you on DM that they love your work but they will never share your stuff or stick up for you. When asked by newspapers about you, they deny even knowing you or having seen any of your work. You often think, ‘I don’t need this validation, the joy of doing stand up is enough”. Then you get a FB message enquiry. You give them your number to take it forward. Then he starts abusing you, telling you how much he hates you and how he’s going to put your number out in public. You wonder if you should to take legal action but you think ‘Fuck it, eventually I will just change my number anyway as too many people have it’. A few college shows & mostly live ticketed shows will be your source of income. No you will not be going international anytime soon because ‘Sir NRI log ko desh ka bare main acha sun na hai, aur nostalgia feel hona chahiye. NRI log ko india main kya chal raha hai malum hi nahi hai.’ Then you see a colleague posting “Thank you Hong Kong for being such a kind audience”. Slowly and steadily you will even see that comedians who started out with you, don’t want to be seen with you on social media because they don’t want to risk what they have going for themselves. You are ‘Ya I get it, our friendship doesn’t need insta validation.
One day your land lady will ask you to vacate her house and look for another place because of your political opinion. And while all this going on and you’re particularly suicidal, HDFC will message you asking you if you’ve linked your Aadhar Card. So CHOOSE wisely about the comedian you want to become.
Also I’m looking for a 1 BHK in Shivaji Park. Lemme know if anyone knows of anything available!”
In another case, a young comedian Shyam Rangeela found himself in the soup after a video of him imitating Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi was leaked from the sets of a show. Indianexpress.com has written to Kamra and is awaiting a response.