Comedy is an art which has evolved a lot in the recent years in India. Humor in India was only restricted to movies. India has always been a democratic country and in this democratic country, every citizen of the country has been bestowed with a right called freedom of speech. Under the protected layer of freedom of speech, we have got to see humor blossoming.
There so many different categories in comedy. Mimicry is the most stereotypical art of comedy, where one mimics or in other words, imitates the body language of another person. Another branch of comedy is stand up comedy, which is considered to be the toughest form of comedy, where a comedian interacts with the live audience and cracks jokes spontaneously on the stage and even comes with a well-written script of funny one-liners and puns. These forms of comedy were unheard of in India but were very popular in the western countries. Stand up comedy came into the existence in the 18th century in the United Kingdom. The performers used to perform in music halls, and they had to submit their script to the censors before the show and the people from censorship would edit the script by censoring all the obscene parts of the script. The United States saw a great rise of stand up comedians in the 19th century, but in India, it took some time to put it’s first stepping stone in comedy.
Charlie Chaplin became a huge hit in the United States, and gradually became a great deal of comedy all across the world. This was the first time a comedian was making a movie and was also acting in it. This motivated many aspiring comedians in India and people started realizing that being a comedian is no more limited to just being a joker in the circus. Indian filmmakers became aware of the fact that after all films are served as an entertainment to the audience, and to entertain them you need a magical element called humor in it. Filmmakers started endorsing a pinch of comedy in films. From there some legendary comedians were born. Mehmood Ali, Johnny Walker, Kishore Kumar, Kader Khan to name a few.
There was a time in the film industry when comedians were paid more than the lead actors. Actors like Johnny Walker and Mehmood Ali were known for their comic timing. Their presence in a film used to ensure a big gathering in the theatres. People were so fond of these comic actors that they had become the reason to watch a film. Mehmood became a household name in India for his improvisation in a typical Hyderabadi accent that he did in ‘Padosan’ which starred Sumit Dutt. A bus conductor’s dream got a life when Balraj Sahni saw Johnny Walker enacting his own version of a drunk man. Sahni was impressed by him and took him to Guru Dutt who gave his first role in ‘Bazzi’. Johnny Walker’s role in ‘Pyasa’ was applauded by everyone especially for the song ‘Sar Jo Tera Chakraye’. He gave one more superhit song in an another Guru Dutt’s film ‘C.I.D’ named ‘Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan’. So such roles were gaining a lot of popularity in the audience.
1986 was the year of another Johnny, and this time it was Johnny Lever. He began his career by doing a small piece of comedy in musical shows. His stage performance ‘Kabaddi’ became very popular all across the country. He rose to fame after giving a couple of successful stage performance in India, and then the actors and music directors used to take him for world tours for their shows. He was spotted by Sunil Dutt in one of his stage performances after which he was offered his first role in ‘Dard Ka Rishta’. He confessed in an interview that often filmmakers used to tell him to write his own dialogues in the film.
Now a new wave of comedians has taken the front stage. The rise of English standup comedians in India brought some fresh air into this entertainment medium. Foundation of comedy clubs in the urban cities of India was welcomed with an overwhelming response from the youngsters. Corporate companies started inviting comedians for shows. The audience got more mature and the youth of this country developed a thick skin so that they could take a joke on them and could enjoy the humor behind the joke. This improvement in the sensibility of the audience advantaged a lot to the stand-up comedians, they were able to crack jokes on the issues which were labeled as taboo, before. The emergence of English stand up comedy groups like AIB, East India Comedy, Schitzengiggles comedy, The Viral Fever etc started investing their money and time in making sketches, and their ultimate source of return was Youtube. Their Youtube channels got enough subscribers that their investment could ensure profitable returns. India saw a 300% rise in the usage of the Internet which inspired many other independent comedians all across the country to become a comedian. Even to start from scratch, you don’t need money to post a video on YouTube. So youtube is the best tool to showcase your talent without any expensive resources. Even in the worst case scenario, you are not in the loss. Right now in India, The Viral Fever has the most number of subscribers on their Youtube channel. The Viral Fever has been extremely intelligent in collaborating with the corporates. So far they have released two Web series on YouTube, the first one was a romantic comedy called permanent roommates which got an overwhelming response online and is currently rated 9.1 on IMDB.
The first season had 5 episodes. The other show that they have ventured in, is named ‘Pitchers’. The show showcases the struggle of startup founders in India. AIB is also a big name in India, the group comprises of five stand up comedians who make big budget, well-scripted sketches. Their most recent sketch featured Irfan Khan, and their collaboration did wonders, the video of the sketch got popular overnight and has been viewed more than 5 million times all over the world.
We hope to see more and more from this comedy groups on YouTube. After having seen their work, we must admit that the future of humor is in safe hands.