Standup Comedians making the audience scream ‘Did You Just Say That?'

Happiness and laughter are the greatest forces known to mankind that can save a person from the horrors of the world. Comedy, being the truest essence delivering both, is an inevitable part of everyday life. It will be absolutely stupid to say that one can live without comedy. Well, if you were to think about the tragedies of life, you would find comedy in each scenario. We are wired in such a way. And that is a pleasant state of affair, to know the art of making people laugh without making them kill you; through comedy.

There are two types of comedy: one that lets you forget your worries and makes you laugh while the other makes you laugh at first, and then, lets you ponder the next moment. The first kind is prevalent in prime time comedy shows, WhatsApp forwards, the jokes column in magazines, prank shows, and cartoons. The other kind is the trickiest one; found in the nooks of newspaper headlines, beauty creams, big hoardings, one-liner memes, Twitter, Instagram stories, and on Netflix, etc. often disguised in sarcasm and satire.

The actual Common Man

Back in the year 1990s, comedy was the new rock n’ roll made popular by stand up comics such as David Baddiel and Rob Newman whose acts sold like hot cakes. Come to the 21st Century and politics became the new comedy. In the era of instant messaging, flip phones, MySpace, and social profile on Orkut, comedy was spreading through newspaper columns, late-night TV shows, daily cartoons, and sketches and advertisements encompassing the political scenarios and faces that ruled the people then. From Shekhar Suman imitating Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his show Movers and Shekhars, politically correct Common Man cartoon sketches by RK Laxman in The Times of India, to editorial column by Jug Suraiya and comedian Vir Das and Saurabh Pant bashing politics on the show News on the Loose on CNBC TV18; we have come down to audacious stand up comedians that are pointing out the disruption in different spheres, from economics, films, politics to technology.

In 2017, a novice comedian Shyam Rangeela went on the stage of a TV Show that was to be aired on Star Plus wherein his act included imitating PM Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi. The act was recorded on the video, shared on social media and accepted with a good response but was never aired on the television show. Although social media handles such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube have helped create a large audience platform for the comic talents to take on the government, India’s popular Prime Minister, and leading policies which is beyond limits in the mainstream media. These comedians are genuine, oppositional voices that are not only speaking the truth wrapped in sarcasm/satire but also managing to poke fun at the pompous ego of top-notch political leaders of our country unabashedly.

What Donald Trump is to comedy in the US, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi are to India. Takes by the up and emerging stand up comics such as Kunal Kamra, Rajneesh Kapoor, Saurabh Pant, Varun Grover, Vir Das, Hasan Minhaj and others sharply hit home more than the editorials featured in the daily newspapers or prime time shows on varied news channels. East India Comedy, consisting of young comedians wrote ‘The Modi Song’ referring to Amit Shah, Ambanis and ‘Achche Din,’ while another group called Aisi Taisi democracy formed by Varun Grover, Sanjay Rajoura and singer of Indian Ocean Band Rahul Ram released several songs on established Indian history, demonetization and Indian economics which went on to become instant hit among the aam janta.

The Modi Song by East India Company

Barring a few comics lurking on the safe side, a number of amateurs, professional, famous and ones with a large fan following are coming up front, taking the center stage and dissolving politics and comedy in uncomfortable ways. The template of standup comedy is transforming rapidly wherein the dangerous, unruly and turbulent political moments are being thrown at individuals as candies made of sweet and spicy syrup of sarcasm, satire, and thought-provoking one-liner jokes. We are seduced by humor like what sedatives do to our bodies. No wonder Ukraine chose Volodymyr Zelensky, a television comic as the President of the country who garnered about three times as many votes as his opponents.

Volodymyr Zelensky is an actor, comedian and also became the President of Ukraine.

With no background experience in politics, Zelensky actually starred in a political series called ‘The Servant of the People’ as a high school history teacher who, after a student posts a viral video of him giving a passionate anti-corruption speech, wins the presidential election as a write-in candidate. The character played by Zelensky attempts to fight the deep-rooted corruption in the society, stands against the powerful oligarchs, the corrupt bureaucrats and members of the parliament and emerges as the leader that the society looks up to. This April 2019, this fictional character played by a real-life comic became the president of the country. Is Anil Kapoor listening to all this? Because if he is then, that day may not be far away when his fictional character in the film ‘Nayak’ may become the real reason for Indians to choose someone like him; tired from all the current situations of the country, corruption, extremism, and inefficient opposition.

Anil Kapoor in Nayak movie.

These standup comedians are doing their jobs, revealing the unscathed truths about political unrest, social injustice, and extremism for us to rationalize the system when the laughter stops. The tragedy is a comedy when we think about it, but when we feel something isn’t right; it is time for us to act upon it.

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