By Tanuj Gupta
Edited by Michelle Cherian, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
A girl, from what is evidently a well to do family, walks up on stage, smiles to the audience, announces that she is from the most conservative of families and then spends the next hour talking about the most taboo of issues, peppered with the choicest of expletives, all this while leaving the audience in splits.
Welcome to the world of modern Indian stand -up comedy, which is redefining boundaries not only in the way that it is being approached but is being looked as a viable career alternative as well. From being an underground activity which only a very few people were involved with, stand -up comedy in India has taken off on its own and entered the mainstream in more ways than one.
So the most popular TV show on Indian primetime is one with a popular Indian stand -up act which while may be tasteless and crass to some, cannot be seen as anything short of a roaring success. While it is true that making someone laugh is probably one of the most difficult tasks on the planet, the Indian stand up scene has matured just about enough to be able to do that with aplomb.
This doesn’t stop with TV though and is even bigger on popular video sharing websites like YouTube where many a stand -up comic has become an overnight star. And it isn’t just the odd Russel Peters anymore. Groups like the AIB and TVF which produce India specific comedy and commentary have become extremely popular and even come into the mainstream with many actors and directors sharing a laugh at themselves. In fact even stars like Alia Bhatt and Imran Khan have bent to this new wave and posted intelligent and witty messages through the medium of channels such as these.
Funnymen like Vir Das have also successfully transitioned to being part of the film industry and not just as comic relief but as genuine actors. This is especially good news as there was a time when there was only stereotyping of such individuals when it came to Indian cinema. So you would have a Johnny Lever always expected to bring in laughs in a two bit role but never be looked at seriously for the actor that he is. This new wave comes as a breath of fresh air to a landscape which was formerly dominated by soap operas on TV and “NRI” comedians on YouTube.
The good thing about this new influx is that it seems like it is here to stay. With the number of acts all across the country swelling with each passing day and with comedy shows being one of the major highlights on sites such as bookmyshow.com, it appears to be raking in not just the guffaws but the moolah as well. The stand-up comedy industry has already grown by leaps and bounds over the past couple of years on the back of some stellar performers and this trend is set to continue with the choices only expanding with passing time.
Tanuj is a final year student of B.Com (Hons.) at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Simultaneously pursuing CA and doing his Articleship, the remaining time that he gets he spends debating, reading, writing and procrastinating. Not usually in that order. With a keen interest and opinion on practically everything under the sun, he is always more than enthusiastic to share it with others and can be contacted on [email protected] for any sort of lively dis