Year 2017: A father and son conversing.
'Bachcha, do you know Narendra Modi?'
'OK, do you know Dhoni?'
'No Papa, who is he?'
'What about Kapil Sharma?'
'Vo Comedy Nights waala na?'
'Haan Ji Bachcha...'
Today’s is a fast-paced generation of technology. People engrossed in social media and handheld devices, or kids playing games on smartphones is a ubiquitous sight. Consequently, it’s not surprising that it’s harder to engage in stress-busting activity. And what better a stress-buster than laughter and comedy?
In the last 12 years, India has seen a meteoric rise in the number of stand-up comedians. From ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge 1’, where Sunil Pal was crowned champion ahead of Raju Srivastava, to each channel having its own comedy show and numerous online comedians and comedy groups like EIC and CLC; we have come a long way from the sappy daily soaps that every 90s kid will remember. The trend can be clearly seen in the film industry too, where more and more comedy-centric films are being made and even the other films are trying to put some comedy masala in between.
For all the nerds living under a rock, stand-up is a comic style in which a comedian performs in front of a live audience, usually speaking directly to them. Unlike the tv-serials where we see a performance recorded on a camera with just the team present, stand-up actually involves real audience who give completely unbiased opinion about the performer and his performance.
So why the sudden transition? Why are the ‘Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi’ loving Indians now fans of people like Sapan Verma, Tanmay Bhatt, Zakir Khan and others? Why has Gutthi overtaken Paarvati as the audience favourite? Most importantly, why are we warming towards comedy now?
There are many reasons for this paradigm shift, of which the most important is that we as Indians love to express ourselves by forming a particular image for others. Everyone here is an expert in his/her opinion and knows pretty much everything about pretty much everything. And while this was not considered good about 20 years back, today people are so busy with their lives that they literally don’t mind, and then if you see some lanky guy on a stage with a mic, humouring every personality on Earth, you automatically connect to that person. And comedy can make things more relatable in a way too.
Secondly, the comedians of our generation have one common trait, they all tend to highlight those moments of our lives when we may have behaved like utter idiots. We do not share these moments with anyone, because we know that they are too embarrassing for us and may spoil our image, but when some other guy stresses on these moments and we get to realise that ‘Sabhi aise hi hain!!’; we truly are able to enjoy the moment. A lot of time and hard work of a comedian goes into noticing these tiny details and devising a way to present it in front of a live audience.
Thirdly, the advancement of technology. This is one factor that has truly contributed in the boost of stand-up comedy of India. As discussed above, it was responsible that people turned to laughter and now this is the reason why so many comedians are getting more and more popular through various online platforms. Those who are not able to attend the show can watch it later… this ensures that the comedian now has a greater reach than their earlier counterparts used to have, as they were restricted only to television and newspaper columns.
As is said, ‘Be someone’s sunshine…Be the reason today to make someone smile’ Stand up artists prove and enact this. Many a times, people think that someone who doesn’t know anything, becomes a stand-up artist. But it is not so. Stand-up artists put in a lot more effort than most professionals. They spread smiles, which is the most difficult thing to do for anyone. And the new generation understands and respects this.
It’s still early days for stand ups in India. But in this time, we have achieved a lot of balance in the genre. We stand in the midst of comedy based on striking observation skills and that which might come off as 'vulgar’, and are managing both pretty well. And in the coming future, this genre is only going to get more popular!