Humour is contextual. There are things you can say in male company and bring the house down. The same joke in a family setting can get you permanently off a guest list. Here’s one from a scholarly tome published in 1968 – Rationale of the Dirty Joke – Anybody can make a mistake”, as the hedgehog said when he stepped off a hairbrush. The question is, are we conditioned to enjoy a certain kind of humour with the kind of political and religious beliefs we nurture or the values we follow ? Dan Ariely has a post from over two years ago on his blog, where he checks if conservatives and liberals enjoy the same kind of jokes.
Stand up comedy in India has not come of age, so we’re importing a few like Vir Das who make fun of our accents and our way of life. The mainstream is the spectacle of ‘judges’ like Archana Puran Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu who guffaw at every inanity and is painful to watch and sit through. The same is true of regional films, where slapstick and stupidity rule. Like a laugh track, there is a comedy track that bears no relation whatsoever to the main theme – and its packed with innuendo. India’s true comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, was made nearly three decades ago. We haven’t come very far since then. TV has fared a little better with ‘Nukkad’and Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi
But there are silver linings. In 2010 a dark comedy that succeeded was ‘Peepli Live‘. While it used the tragic back story of farmer suicides in the country and the media as well as the politicians exploiting it for different reasons, it did not bite or go as deep as it could have. It just nicked the surface. There were barbs but there was no searing truth that made the viewer uncomfortable. India does not have a Howard Stern or a Ricky Gervais. Some cows are still too holy. And maybe, that’s a good thing