‘Gender in Indian Standup Comedy’ – Vir Das

**In part seven of the 10 blog series, we profile Vir Das. You can read part one (Kenny Sebastian), part two (Aditi Mittal), part three (Sorabh Pant), part four (Nidhi Goyal), part five (Aadar Malik) and part six (Anu Menon).

This is just odd… you think that is odd… here I am… taking care of my कोमल त्वचा… and oh! This is supposed to sell a lot of ice-cream. Bike sales go up if I keep my legs like this… and I fell from heaven for a deo… you know it’s a good thing that women don’t have to do this kind of stuff. That way they never have to feel uncomfortable, awkward, objectified, pointless… you know what… enough is enough… you don’t have to objectify women to sell a product. It would be refreshing to see a deodorant brand like ‘He’ do the opposite… respect… ‘HeRespect’… for real men who respect women”

For viewing the entire episode, log on to the YouTube videos, ‘Every Sexist Commercial you have ever seen’ .

In ‘India and Homophobia’, Vir Das talks about the senselessness of section 377 that not only criminalizes homosexuality but also oral sex and anal sex. Mr. Das finds it absurd that in a country so large, something so private can be made criminal. Why is it criminal? What crime is it if two consenting adults are in a relationship that they want to make public and be accepted for that?

“Ladies and gentlemen while we are talking about love… India has no right to call itself a progressive country until anybody in India can love who they want irrespective of race, caste, creed or sexual orientation… This is a crime in India ladies and gentlemen. It is a crime. How? If it is a crime then there must be a way of investigation and a way of judgment, right? How do you judge a gay crime? Is there a trial?

“Order! Order! The defendant shall now be sworn in. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

“I don’t know man! This is the first Geeta I have laid hands on!”

“Stop making jokes in my trial! The defendant has been charged with sodomy, excessive fellatio and inherent flamboyance. Defendant! How do you plead?”

“Not guilty!”

“Are you saying you did not have sex with another man?”

“No I am just saying I don’t feel guilty.”

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.