‘Gender in Indian Standup Comedy’ – Neeti Palta
**In part eight of the 10 blog series, we profile Neeti Palta. You can read part one (Kenny Sebastian), part two (Aditi Mittal), part three (Sorabh Pant), part four (Nidhi Goyal), part five (Aadar Malik), part six (Anu Menon) and part seven (Vir Das).
My name is Neeti Palta and I have a big problem. I have no idea how to be a girl. Seriously guys it is not my fault. It’s my dad’s fault. See he used to say, “Son and daughter are the same to me. दोनों बराबर हो” He (my father) actually raised me up to be equal to a boy. So I have no idea what a girl is not supposed to do. So I used to collect stamps. I used to climb trees. I used to pick my own nose. I did not know this was not allowed. I did not know की यह करने से मेरे लड़की होने का license cancel हो जायेगा. “सॉरी मैडम फिर से written paper देना पड़ेगा…” “नहीं! पर में लड़की हूँ!” “नहीं मैडम, theory नहीं चलेगी, एक और बार paper attempt कर लो.” Really sad…
So I did not know that women are never supposed to make the first move on a guy. I liked a boy. What to do? I asked my friends and nobody had ever made a move on a guy. Nobody knew what to do. So I said, “Theek hai. Let me just use a line which I knew was tried and tested. I thought it was fail proof. I walked up to the boy and said, “बोनी का टाइम है, मना मत करना”. But I would have got better with practice. Of course I would. अगर chance मिलती तब तो! यहाँ तो एक line में ही दुनिया उलट गयी. I did not know how much impact that one move of mine would have on the entire planet. Like suddenly I had messed with the natural order of things… The sun started rising from the west, 4G actually started working. Sidhu stopped laughing. Imagine I made all this happen and then they say women are not empowered. And the poor boy… you should have seen the look on his face. He would have had the same look you (any boy) will get if she actually says yes to you. He just looked at me, “Aye but why? Did you lose a bet? Did someone challenge you? Am I on some hidden camera? Am I going to be on सनसनी?” for him this was completely out of syllabus. And then he did to me what we girls do these guys all the time… he friend-zoned me.”
For the entire episode of Neeti Palta, log on to the YouTube video, “#LadiesFirst Shaadi.com”. The Indian standup comedy industry is not only a new entrant in the list of cool career aspirations millennials seek but it is also a burgeoning culture of re-assessing and inserting humor in the ‘Indianness’ of an Indian life. It is through live performances / Open Mic nights that almost all the standup performers launch themselves. After which they financially optimize upon their live performance content through YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook. Some of the standup comedy artists create separate content for Instagram and Snapchat.
The live performances and standup comedy stars are managed by new media organizations like East India Comedy, Canvas Laugh Club, Only Much Louder, A Little Anarky, KWAN etc. The target audience for new media is youth who extensively consumes internet. A lot of content is in Hinglish and hence the audience is required to know, understand and ideally speak the same in order to enjoy the humor. Keeping the target audience demographics in mind, we are looking at standup comedy to be popular in Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Pune, Kanpur, Indore, Jaipur, Vadodara, Nagpur, Lucknow, Patna, Vishakapatnam, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Gwalior and Gandhinagar. The aforementioned cities belong to the Tier 1 and Tier 2 classification. These classifications are arrived upon after calculating income of an individual and house rent expenditure.
The new media standup comedy questions the morality of India’s socio-culture fabric while the mainstream media standup comedy merely laughs at it or worse still reinforces certain questionable ideologies. When women form part of the standup comedy industry, it gives a delectably humorous twist to the otherwise serious topic of women empowerment. At the outset, both seem to be thriving in the entertainment industry. However, which of the category an individual patronizes speaks a lot about that person’s own mindset.