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Not Quite Roasted

09/02/2015 8:30 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA - AUGUST 13: Audiences react to stand-up comedians performing an act called Aisi-Taisi Democracy at the Canvas Laugh Club at The Palladium Mall in Lower Parel, Mumbai, India on August 13, 2014 (Photo by Karen Dias/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

People expect comedians to be funny. It's a reasonable expectation: much like you expect athletes to be fit, engineers to be intelligent and politicians to be unqualified. However, currently comedians are not finding much to laugh about. And, this piece is going to make us sound unfunny, preachy and possibly delusional. So, we're going to sound exactly like the people filing FIRs against our er... colleagues.

Standup comedy is anarchy. Sometimes it may be a reflection of society but, at its best times it is a mockery in the face of order. It is the only form of anarchy that involves an inordinate amount of genital jokes, expletives and more often than not, people drinking and laughing. Even in the true essence of the art: it is a mockery of anarchy, it is an anarchy against anarchy. #DeepantChopra

The AIB Roast was juvenile, crude, disgusting and needlessly vulgar. So, it was exactly what a roast is supposed to be. Obviously, India was less prepared for it than Amit Shah is prepared for a Mach 3 razor. The very format of a roast is a celebrity taking vulgar potshots at himself/herself for the sake of charity. What a ludicrous kind of charity! You could never imagine Mother Teresa raise funds that way. Just that benevolent lady on stage with the luminaries of her time, "Tagore. Tagore is with us tonight. Amazing writer but, what's up with that beard? You look like Bengali Dumbledore. Nehru. Mr. Nehru is here tonight. Sir, you're a fine PM and, I must salute you on discovering the ultimate way to hide that you're balding: the Gandhi topi. Of course, it's not the first time that Gandhiji has covered for you. But, seriously: we raised 50 Lakhs for orphans tonight. Thanks for coming out for Missionaries of Hilarity."

If it were possible to respect Mother Teresa anymore, it would have been that: her as the ultimate roast master. Raising LOLs for orphans.

Which is why the number of FIRs that have mushroomed against the roast across India - like pool parlours across Mumbai in the 2000s - are ridiculous. Each person that files an FIR is proof that Mr. Modi's government needs to do much more to increase employment because, obviously these people aren't applying on naukri.com for a real job.

A Pune FIR was filed against 14 people including Deepika, Sonakshi and YouTube. Yes, an FIR against Deepika and Sonakshi for er... laughing. You know: that thing hyenas do. Why are these actresses impersonating an African carnivore? It is against Indian culture. Why can't they behave more like the more Indian cow and stay calm and chew cud? And, what about this YouTube fellow? Where is he? Must be American only to allow such disgust. I want to see YouTube defend this FIR: it'll be a police station filled with 34 million cats, Nicki Minaj twerking, 2 million dogs, a farting hippo, a cacophony of babies and someone biting Charlie's finger. That might be a marvellous roast of wasting our poor police's time.

And, isn't it more anti-Indian of these people filing these FIRs that they are blatantly disrespecting the Indian police? Aren't our poor men in khadi already overworked than to now bother with what happened on the Internet? Should I issue an FIR anytime someone sends me a candy crush request or doesn't RT my awesome tweet or BCC's me on an email I don't want?

But, let's talk AIB. Over the last two years, AIB has been at the forefront of the comedy wave in India. Critics would say, "It's what you would expect from someone called Bakchod. Saale gaali dete rehte hai sirf." But, enough about all of our dads. A lot of people don't enjoy AIB and that's OK. They subscribe to other channels, and hey, we other channels are not complaining!

However, what everyone has conveniently disregarded is AIB's contribution to satire: 'It's Not Your Fault': a video on the ridiculous blaming of rape victims, 'Times of Boobs': about the voyeurism of Indian media or even a take on the porn ban. It's not only been about the abuse. It never was.

There is not a single English comedy collective in this country, that is only about the abuse. Whether it's the amazing guys at TVF or Shitzengiggles or even our attempts at East India Comedy: with the 'Sex Education' video, 'Wrecking God' or 'I'm Not A Woman'; it's always been about mixing up the juvenile sensibilities that are inherent to comedians (we're basically adults that are still stuck in college); with a social responsibility. Especially in a country like India where there is so much that is deeply fractured. Please consider this our application for CSR tax deductions!

I'm making us all sound like we're Malala Yousafi with mikes in hand. We're not. Mostly, because half of us are uneducated - at least in the working of society. But, it's deeply offensive to judge the comedy scene merely on the basis of a video format that was meant to offend. Maybe we've not changed society but, we've attempted to express our outrage in a democracy. All we have are our words and our dumb jokes, and we try. Comedy will never change society but, it can bend some members of the society. Considerably more than most of the people that are so keen to issue police complaints against our work.

I usually have little respect for moral policing. Because, it is so impractical, it is a 'crime' based purely on emotions. About how it makes you feel, indirectly. Sometimes it makes perfect sense to have moral policing: such as Roastmaster Owaisi, Sakshi Maharaj, Dr. Zakir Naik , The Ram Sene and numerous other roasters across the country.

It's a simple question: did the #AIBRoast have the capacity to start a riot, cause physical harm, property damage? Did it have the content to wedge a divide in India's religious lines? The answer is no. Because, it did not have any agenda. It's intention was to offend everyone, equally. Unlike all the religious roast maters previously mentioned.

But, we never truly bother with those people. Why? Religion.

If the #AIBRoast had been called The Hindu Sangathan or The Muslim League Conference or even The Scientology Tom Cruise Dal - there would have been an outcry but, it wouldn't have been as deafening as this. Because, we're all so afraid of religion. We're so afraid that if we speak up against someone who is allegedly representing a religion, we'll come off as non-secular. It is a ridiculous misnomer. I don't care about your religion but, some people are a-holes first and religious representatives second. It is the sad truth that half the country can never embrace this fact.

On a purely comedic level: the #AIBRoast wasn't that special. It was fun but, that's the curse of the roast format. It's insult comedy. It's just a bunch of insults. They're fun to watch but, not ever mind bending. And, that is fine. AIB has done enough satirically to be able to do a silly roast. They've earned it. What they haven't earned is this response.

I don't like Yo Yo Honey Singh's music. I find it crude. He's not on my iTunes playlist.

I loathe Sakshi Maharaj. I won't follow him on Twitter.

I don't like Owaisi, at all. I'll never vote for him.

And, constantly speak up against them, when they offend me.

You didn't like the Roast? Don't watch it.

Why do you have to go so out of your way to get offended?

Do you have nothing left to achieve in your life? Don't you have bills to pay? Goals to achieve? Maybe even a high score at Angry Birds to bother with?

Over the last week, many journalists and fans of comedy have essentially asked me, "Is this the death knell for comedy in India?" Of course, not all of them were that erudite with their queries. It was more like, "Bro, teri toh fatt gayi, right?", or, "When you getting arrested, boss?", or, "So, now that your career as a comedian is done, will you join a call center?"

The answer is an emphatic: no. Standup is supposed to performed in dingy, dank places with 60 alcoholics egging you on. This spotlight on comedy is an aberration to its very format. In its most stripped down version: it's supposed to be a conspiracy with laughter. Every comedian that I admire does this because they love jokes. Some of our jokes are juvenile, some are insightful, most are ludicrous and pointless. But, we love comedy: and you can't really stop a guy from stepping up in front of a microphone. Unless, you decide to ban: humans, people, microphones and speech, standup comedy is never going to stop.

All you've done is made a bunch of rejected, angry people (i.e. comedians) a little bit more angry and furious. This is not the death knell of comedy, this is a new beginning.

We'll see you at our next punchline. #IStandWithAIB

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