What are you laughing at? That’s the title of an Amazon special featuring my favorite comic Neville Shah. It was released last year, along with 12 more special on the platform, creating waves across the nation. I was up on my feet with excitement since I am a fan of stand up in India and also am also someone who encourages innovation. There is something refreshing about this new crop of comics doing comedy in English.
I do spend time laughing at obscure things and having a gala time watching YouTube. Like the majority of you, I am all too inclined towards comedy. Who hasn’t heard of BB ki Vines or Carryminati or Mostly Sane and their genre of madcap comedy? I have no qualms about admitting that watching them is my guilty pleasure.
The brand of humour on digital space ranges from sarcasm to roasting. AIB, Kenny Sebastian and EIC have all crossed 1 million subscribers even though they cater to English speaking audiences in India. Kenny’s Chai Time series has found flavour with universal audiences.
The usual mockery and ridicule attached to the profession have faded away with the passage of time. These comics have brought in a positive vibe and sophisticated twist to the entire profession. The collective effort by these comics has led to a revolution of sorts in the comedy scene.
There are various formats of comedy. Sketches, Open mics and Improv are some of them. Kenny Sebastian’s sketch for Comedy Central named The Living Room was one of the first of its kind in India. It was aired on Comedy Central from December 2014. There is a group called The Improvisers that specifically does Improv. Kaneez Surka is a part of that group as you know she is considered the finest Improv artist of India.
Comedy is a different ball game altogether. Many consider it to be the most difficult genre, even an established actor like Akshay Kumar has admitted to that. These comics walk a thin line between insulting someone and making fun.
First, they began with opting simple topics, then they turn to their instincts. Now they are upping the ante with more risky topics and touching upon serious issues like mental health. Sapna Verma speaks out about his OCD on his special Obsessive Comedic Disorder. There are addressing everything under the sun. There are interested in delving deeper into your psyche. Their viewpoints are reflective in nature often mirroring societal stigma. Their punchlines may land or not but they have certainly landed a punch.
There are many pitfalls to the job as well. Like the comedian, Kunal Kamra faced furore for his bit on patriotism. They do sometimes hurl out expletives in the name of comedy, but that is just to strengthen their bit. They use a pop culture reference in abundance replicating Western comics.
It’s raining giggles on Amazon and Netflix. As we all know, Amazon and Netflix are two major platforms that have proven their mettle in the West. They are now in India reigning the digital space. The demand for comedy has escalated in the last few years thanks to YouTube and these platforms are looking forward to increase from that. There are doling out sketches and specials promoting comedy in the subcontinent. Amazon had 13 specials last year and Netflix had 2. There are more specials in the pipeline in the coming days.
The best specials are curiously titled as the following:
Vir Das: Abroad Understanding- For years, he is known as the flagbearer of Indian comedy in the West. In his special he speaks about racism and adds his brand of humor to it. He in his own words talks about the awkwardness of being an Indian abroad.
Kanan Gill: Keep it Real-The funny man is a smooth talker and is quite popular with the ladies. In his special he speaks about feminism and cows since these are two most discussed topics in the country. His special was considered the best among the lot.
Zakir Khan: Haq se Single- The storyteller and only Hindi comic of the lot. He weaves magic with his stories. He has collaborated with AIB on many occasions. He teases the audience with his relationship status that is single of course. He even appeared on television and was a judge for the show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.
Azeem Banatwalla:Cometh the Hour- The comic belonging to the group EIC. He can leave you in splits with his wit. The tall, lanky comic has an engineering degree to his credit. The comic in his special mentions about bike riders. He is a co-writer for EIC Outrage.
Sapan Verma:Obessessive Comedic Disorder- They’re great comic from the house of EIC.I consider him out of the league for choosing to open up on his mental health. He speaks openly about his OCD. He also teaches at a college. EIC v’s Bollywood is where you get to see his hosting skill.
Sourabh Pant:Make India Great Again- The comic who has a rajor-sharpe wit.He stands out with his facial expressions and his manuvoers.He has travelled the country with Rant of Pant. He now has a Youtube channel of his own. He used to be a part of EIC.As you can see three comics from EIC have already made it to the list.
Neville Shah:What are you laughing at?- He is a part of another collective SNG.His humour is edgy and he often retorts to dark place.I have said earlier he is my favourite comic.He is brazen and speaks his heart.In his special he has a bit on condolence calls and in Journey of a Joke he speaks on this unabashedly. His mother had died a few days prior to the special and he is speaking about the condolence calls he received after that.
Aditi Mittal:Things they won’t let me say-The female comic on the list. It amuses me how freely she speaks about most taboo topics. She is quite nonchalant.She too speaks her mind and receives criticism for it.Her bit on sanitary napkins is quite famous on YouTube.
There are many more specials but I haven’t listed them.These were my favourite ones.So the list according to my choice only.