Stand-up comedy and online sketches have seen an exponential growth in India. There are a number of men and women who are tickling India’s funny bone by joking about some of the most sensitive issues and trending topics in the country today. East India Comedy is a group of seven comedians namely Sorabh Pant, Sapan Verma, Sahil Shah, Azeem Banatwalla, Atul Khatri, Kunal Rao and Angad Singh Ranyal, who have consistently spread their humour, not just through live shows but also through short videos, posts and tweets. Just before their show in the city on December 17, we chat with Sahil Shah about writing for comedy and what it is like to be funny in the age of social media.
Stand-up comedy and online sketches are something that a lot of comedians are working on, in a group and individually. Most comedians address issues that are ongoing, especially political ones. How does EIC make sure that its content and comedy stand out from the rest?
We have EIC Outrage, which is our news comedy property. We have tackled some of the biggest issues from animal abuse to student suicide. From women’s safety to terrorism, we have covered everything that India needs to know and we are doing it with a humorous twist so more people pay attention to it.
What kind of a future do you see for Indian comedians regarding the space to freely express yourself? Is that space widening or narrowing?
It’s both. Every time the space widens, something happens that narrows it down. So, we try to push the line as slowly as we can and get everyone to calm down one laugh at a time.
Do you think that the writing and content for comedy has changed for the better over the years?
It is much better. We used to laugh at stereotypical jokes on Indians and gujjus and panjus, but times have changed. The audience has become better. They want smarter jokes. They watch comedy so much that they know the tropes that are used. They are well versed with a show so they know that a comedian can insult them and they are ready with insults to throw back. Times have changed for the better and it’s a great feeling to see Indian comedy grow.
We have started taking our comedians much more seriously than our politicians. Do you feel that the onus of educating audience members over certain issues has now fallen on comedians?
The young generation that watches Youtube and Netflix loves watching comedy. They don’t see the news. They don’t sit and watch debates or read columns in papers. They see Youtube videos. Now, if you have a Youtube video educating the youth and spreading your message through humour, it’s the best thing ever. Most EIC Outrage videos have a call to action that encourages the youth to do something more with their life and take control of their life and change the country for the better. Politicians can go on ranting and cracking jokes but we are the real ones who are fighting for change in our country. Change through humour.
How difficult is it to be funny instantly especially since you all have a heavy presence on social media?
It’s not difficult. Social media is a job for us. The moment a topic breaks, we need to start writing jokes and memes. If we don’t do it then someone else will do it. Thanks to Twitter, you don’t need to be a comedian to be funny. Everyone has a voice. You just need to stand out. Comedy is not as simple as it once was. It’s not only stage shows. Now you have videos, viral memes and jokes that get shared on Whatsapp. You need to be on the top of your game if you want to get likes and Retweets. It’s a bizarre world to be part of…scary and yet tremendous fun.
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