‘Gender in Indian Standup Comedy’ – Karunesh Talwar

**In part ten of the 10 blog series, we profile Karunesh Talwar. 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), part seven (Vir Das), part eight (Neeti Palta) and part nine (Mallika Dua and Abish Mathew)

“I am a feminist. I go somewhere I identify myself as that. If you just tell people I am a feminist, they will start looking at you as if there is something wrong with you. Like it is 2016 man, have some bizarre justifications, some bizarre concepts in their head. They say things like, “ये औरतों को equality चाहिए… इनको चाहिए. तो ट्रेन में खुद का डब्बा क्यों है इनके पास? मेरेको भी चाहिए. Why they have their own compartment?! क्योंकि पीछे से तू चिपकता है ch**iye!  Why they have their own? मेरेको भी चाहिए! यह कैसा logic है? यह औरतों के पास sanitary napkin क्यों है? मेरेको भी चाहिए! में भी लगाके घूमेगा whisper! में अपने दोस्त को बोलेगा, “पियूष इधर लाथ मार. फिर खून निकलेगा, में Stayfree डालेगा और घूमेगा सड़क पे येड़े के माफिक. मर्द आदमी हूँ. मेरे अन्दर का पागल जागता है न! में जानवर हूँ जानवर! I am a beast bro! They will go to any extent to prove their masculinity. People have some weird justifications, “Okay it is bad for women here. But what about the middle east? उधर औरत सोचती है न, उसे जला देते है. It is like you are complaining about global warming and I came up to you and said, “हाँ यहाँ पे मौसम थोडा ख़राब है. Mercury pe dekha hai temperature kya hai?”

 For the entire episode, log on to the YouTube video, ‘Women’s Safety in India’ by Karunesh Talwar. 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. 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.