In early 2014, I spent my waking hours watching as much stand-up as possible. I would go to shows and see the comics emerge from behind thick black curtains and vanish back behind them once they were done. I often wondered what rebellious ideas were being concocted behind those curtains in that elusive ‘Green Room’. Well, I certainly found out soon enough.
The first Indian stand-up comedians were predominantly cisgendered straight men from high-income families. I can already imagine half of them rolling their eyes at my mere mention of it. Until the #MeToo Movement shook up the industry, it continued to be an elite all-boys club.
I am glad that comedy has temporarily moved to Zoom because at least I can mute them!
The way the men cross-dress on Kapil Sharma’s show portrays women and transgendered individuals in the wrong light. Yet their own material is filled with hate towards the same individuals. At one show, I had the misfortune of watching Nitin ‘Rivaldo’ Gupta crack one of the most transphobic jokes I’d ever heard. It’s no point reaching out to them: it’s a ‘joke’, so no one is supposed to take offense. The comedy scene then ends up being an extension of the same boys’ locker room shenanigans the world has been iffy about forever.
Statements like, “Why do women talk about boobs, bras and sanitary pads?”, “Why do gays have to talk about anal sex?” and “Maybe you are not bi, you are just greedy” are commonplace. Maybe because they have had first-hand experiences? Ever think of it from that point of view? Or do you boys want to talk about everything yourselves since you are the unofficial saviours of humankind?
Despite all that’s transpired over the past two years, the straight dudes of Indian comedy haven’t done much to salvage their image because the public has a short-term memory. Nothing’s changed. There are still comics being sexist, homophobic, casteist, transphobic and just generally toxic from the confines of their homes now. You already know who I am talking about.
In many ways, I am glad that comedy has temporarily moved to Zoom video calls because at least you can choose to mute them.
Navin Noronha is a Mumbai-based writer, comedian and podcaster. He celebrates his queerness through his work in an uncompromising manner