‘Gender in Indian Standup Comedy’ – Anu Menon

**In part six of the 10 blog series, we profile Anu Menon, and how she incorporates humour when speaking on serious issues. You can read part one (Kenny Sebastian), part two (Aditi Mittal), part three (Sorabh Pant), part four (Nidhi Goyal), and part five (Aadar Malik).

“I am a Malayali and I married a Gujarati which obviously means I have low self-esteem. Like, I feel sometimes I am starring in my own reality show… you know ‘Big Boss Baroda’, ‘Survivor Surat’, ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja Jamnagar’. In fact I just finished my autobiography, “Who moved my Dhokla?” Best seller!
Married women raise your hands!
How long have you been married?
Was it a love marriage or arranged marriage?
Do you have in-laws?
Do they like you?
You mum-in-law likes you? Ya? Hahaha… that’s what you think… there’s therapy for delusion…”
And what do you call her (mother-in-law)? Mummy!! of course you do… pavitra bhartiya naari with the Aloknath seal of approval.
See now this is the problem. When I was dating my husband, I used to call them Aunty and Uncle. But now it’s not going to miraculously change overnight just because we are married. I know that my gujju in-laws would have liked nothing better than for me to say things like ‘Kem cho mummy?’ ‘kem cho papa’. But I felt like I was cheating on my parents. Right? So I was like… I am not going to say it until I mean it…”

For the entire episode of Anu Menon, log on to the YouTube video, “Mum-in-Law and Mmmmm…Me”. Much of what Anu Menon speaks comes from social realities that need to be questioned but also need to be laughed at by taking it on a lighter note. It is interesting to note how Menon brings to light the fact that women tend to be custodians of patriarchy. She is not only questioning it but she has changed her own reality and created humor around the otherwise norm of women who internalize colonization. Amit Tandon is another standup comedian who has a hilarious take on Indian married couples that has the undercurrents of ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’. The only difference however, is that Tandon portrays men as hapless victims in the ‘marriage game’ and women as bona fide experts at it.

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.