The year 2016 was brilliant for Stand-Up Comedy across the world. Flashback November 8, 2016, you thought India fired an unbeatable salvo with its best joke till date – demonetisation. What could have bettered that? It was just a matter of few hours before America Trumped us when a democracy boasting of the Statute of Liberty voted like the Statue of Puberty!
That eighth day of November 2016 was a perfect segue to 2017 – promising an exciting time for stand-up comedy in India and the world. The Indian circuit across cities was seen brimming with new talent – unbridled, expressive and, more importantly, funny. Most of us on stage had an audience steadily, but surely, building!
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The Internet data revolution that 2017 witnessed gave artistes other media to courier their content to the audience. The LOLs and ROFLs, earlier restricted to TV laughter shows, now echoed at bus stops, college addas and office meetings (yes! It happens) as Youtube and Facebook videos of established and new comics flooded the market. There was a growing audience for every kind of comedy irrespective of language, genre or topic! And that was great for the scene.
But, a mass online reach also meant the strengthening of the online troll army! Death threats to comics, banning them from venues and cities, in addition to relentlessly attacking them online became more the norm than an exception.
Such are the times we are living in where one wonders if an opinion is even an opinion if it doesn’t offend someone! The ‘topics that hurt’ range from something as inane as Snapchat dogfilters to something as intense as Padmavati. Deepika Padukone’s nose can smell the smog of intolerance, literally.
As a country, we didn’t do too well in taking a joke as a joke. Videos questioning some illogical take on self-proclaimed patriotism caught the attention of haters – they trolled online and threatened offline. Some responses were beyond belief. A video on Royal Enfield would generally tickle your bones and leave you at that. For some reason, it ended up wrangling the sensitive nerve of some bike lovers who ‘threatened’ the comic for hurting their ‘sentiments.’ Also scoring high on the offence meter was a stand-up comic’s take on the confusion he faces as a traveller thanks to Mumbai’s two airports sharing a common name (Yes, that’s true!). A mimicry set by an artiste (that thankfully got leaked online) was not aired on the television laughter show, where it was recorded, because it was based on the country’s prime minister!
But, thankfully, none of this has managed to spam the comic’s creativity on stage. Jokes on politics and religion continue to be wheeled in with as much finesse as jokes on relationships and jobs.
Stand-up comedy as a medium has started a vibrant conversation against societal plagues such as sexism and racial discrimination. And, hopefully, that’s the way ahead! To fight meaningless dissent with unbridled humour.
The running joke in the comedy circuit is – ‘any comic is one FIR away from being famous.’
I am waiting for my turn!