‘Gender in Indian Standup Comedy’ – Nidhi Goyal

**In part four of the 10 blog series, we profile Nidhi Goyal (a visually impaired standup comedian), and how she incorporates humour when speaking on serious issues. You can read part one (Kenny Sebastian), part two (Aditi Mittal) and part three (Sorabh Pant).

“I am Nidhi Goyal and I am blind. I am blind and so is love you know… get over it. Once I was walking into a wedding with my mum and there was this lovely aunty who came up to her and she said, “She is your daughter?” My mom said, “Ya, she is my daughter.” “She has some problem?” So people are very polite. They don’t ask you if you are disabled. They say, “Do you have a problem?” I say, “No, do you?”

So I registered on a matrimonial portal. One uncle called me. He said, “Beta we are very impressed with your education, your profile, your work sounds fascinating! I would love you to meet my son.” I went like, “Wow ya! Super uncle ya… direct meet my son and all that…” I said, “Okay great. But uncle wait… you know in my profile I have written I am blind. I hope you have read it.” “What!! What beta!!” “Uncle I can’t see. I am visually impaired. I hope you have read it.” “Uh….uh… okay okay okay.” “Uncle have you read it or not?” “haan haan haan… okay okay okay.” Uncle slams the phone.

That’s the day I realized that disability is contagious. I told him I am visually impaired and he became speech impaired.

“So Nidhi… why comedy?” – Aditi Mittal

“So Aditi basically I am a trainer, I am a writer, I am a researcher, I work for women with disabilities on issues. I anyway go and talk to people. I show them presentations. I write about it. I sensitize people. I have all the numbers, I have the issues, I have the data and I anyway disseminate it.

But I have realized that the best way to get people to listen is through comedy. I only say things people think but are too afraid to talk.”

For the entire episode of Nidhi Goyal, log on to the YouTube video, “Bad Girls with Aditi Mittal”. 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.