Rise of Stand-up Comedy Culture in India

Stand Up Comedy

Stand-up Comedy culture is blooming fast in India. The social networking sites are packed with thousands of comic videos and major proportion is grabbed by ‘Stand Up Comedy’.  The comedians are now getting a well defined ‘Celebrity’ status. They have fan pages, ardent followers and are hounded for selfies. Going through some facts, in the past 10 years, there is a rise of 130% in the number of venues providing open-mic nights and presently in big cities, like Bangalore, an average of 10-12 shows are organized per weekend. 

New Face and Phase of Comedy

In India, initially, comedy was just related to mimicry and used for some light moments in movies. Legends such as Johny Lever is still known for mimicry and funny expressions. Things have changed. Comedy is now related to facts delivering, reviews and fun commentary. Comedians serve us the things from daily life, situations, thoughts, stories, struggles and much more. They provide us with their views with spicy and funny comments in a politically correct manner (sometimes not!). They collect content from us and present it from their own viewpoint.

Comedy is an industry now. Several companies like All India Bakchod (AIB), East India Comedy (EIC) and individuals Zakir Khan, Aadar Malik etc. have ridden from scratch to fame. The major success of this field is due to the increasing acceptance of audience. They have started taking comedy seriously. Corporate firms are embracing comedy- like never before to connect with employees. While YouTube is a good way to notice, video streaming ventures like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Voot and Hotstar are producing special shows. It is now possible in India to build a business around comic content.

Comedy – Not a cake walk

According to a known comedian Kunal Kamra, “People don’t want to listen to same tired jokes on communities and localities. Comedians need to pace with changing audience tastes.”

Being a comedian is not as easy as it sounds. Social acceptability of this profession is still low. People usually left high-paid jobs to follow this passion. Humour and content come gradually as the exposure to open-mic increases. Popularity in social media is equally must. A unique style of content delivering draws maximum number of audience. All of this hard work and dedication pays well if you are good at what you do.

The problem for a stand-up comedian increase when a joke is related to intolerant topics such as Religion, Politics (BJP of course!), Tradition and Terrorism. Social media trolls and death threat are worth mentioning. Controversies related to AIB knockout are not yet stale. In March this year, a 29-year-old former ad executive received death threats after his comic sketch “Patriotism and Government” included fun of demonetization. But in his opinion, “The risks are worth it.”

It all seems that our human right ‘Right to speak’ is being used well by the comedians. The new generation is highly interested in politics and social issue and hence, humour (if balanced) is the best way to raise awareness without making other offended.

Future outlook of Stand-up Comedy

The future of stand up is certainly shining in the way it’s evolving. People are valuing their comic side and comedy is now a thing of intelligent person. Humour appeals to everyone’s basic interests and it will be interesting to see the direction it takes in the future.

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