The Future Fall of Standup Comedy in India – What, When & How You Say Matters
‘Laughter is the best medicine that should be consumed by every soul from the moment it steps into this world’
With great recommendations from my cousins, I recently viewed this Tamil & English mixed, musical standup comedy – ‘Alex in Wonderland’. For the first time ever in the past decade, I sincerely appreciate the artist for the work of humor. 2 hours and 16 minutes of my life was gadget-free and filled with tummy paining laughter, with real impact in my mind. Yes! It is evident that there is a rise of standup comedy in India. Yet, the future seems to be shaky of this entertainment circuit, if one of the core aspects isn’t taken care of today.
A lot is written about how the rise and rise of standup comedians in India are increasing every day. Every day we see a new comedy artist in the market. Pubs, bars, corporate shows, wedding functions, etc., everywhere standup comedy is witnessed and appreciated. It is getting more and more institutionalized by classifying different types of comedy such as anecdotal, topical, sketch, observational, etc. We have standup comedy reality shows such as Comicstaan (web series), The Great Indian Laughter (TV series), etc., which helps the participants, earn money and fame within a span of a few months.
With more use of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc., comedy is definitely rising to the challenges of entertainment showbiz. When we say comedy is a serious business, it is just not about ROI. It is a serious business because lots of responsible, creative efforts are needed to make it successful. However, I personally, feel a lot of effort is going on marketing and selling the content, rather than the creation of the content. The content doesn’t always mean the topics addressed. The content also means the language used.
This is a question to all the standup comedy artists, ‘Do you really know what is a comedy content?’. If you think using such content is comedy, apologies, you are living in a bubble. Please refresh your knowledge by viewing the work of yesteryear legendary comedy artists such as Johnny Walker, Utpal Dutt, Mehmood Ali, Khader Khan, Cho.Ramaswamy, Nagesh, Vadivelu, Sendhil – Goundamani, etc. The list is endless. The work of humor that they depicted on screen and in theatre plays were way beyond our imagination. They weren’t just some side-actors. They were storyboard’s those personalities who bridged the gap with appropriate content at the right time and place. They had earned not just money and fame, but also respect from their followers and fans for life just for their sheer work.
In the current times, standup comedy content is filled with profanity. In a line that has 7 words, 4 words are typically foul words, and the rest is prepositions and conjunctions that join these words to make a sentence. Whether the context requires that language or not, it is deliberately inserted. And, when it is performed on the stage, the word gets visually depicted with the tone of the artist and mood set for the audience. The target audience for these types of shows, whether it is digital or live, can be someone as small as a teenager to a retired individual. The audience is grasping and digesting that is given to them. I can’t just mention any one particular video, because more than 90% of the comedy content is filled with such content. Agree or deny, it certainly feels a little discomfort to watch such content, along with your other family members.
Putting a disclaimer note that this is 18+ content, isn’t enough. Making the audience laugh that doesn’t have a lasting impact is never an act of comedy. Being the popular celebrities and influencers of the humor world, you have a greater responsibility towards defining, ‘what is a comedy and what is real entertainment’. Time to take up the responsibility of your field and act accordingly. As a responsible content creator of the Broadcast & Digital Media platform, you got to be curating a more censored, yet qualitative content that can be watched by anyone and everyone irrespective of the age.
Remember, young kids, as small as adolescents watch and listen to your words. You got to be watchful of your thoughts and actions. The audience is always the defining aspect of any business. Never underestimate them or take them for granted. Rest, you never know, how times will change and how this rise today, might take you to a painful and unrecoverable downfall tomorrow, with the same audience.
I am not someone who is against standup comedy. But, I am someone, who is cautious about the content that I consume.