Comedy scene for women in India is gradually evolving. From rarely a name or two, now we have a bunch of women in the comedy scape, making a name and a career out of it. Comedy as a whole is now an established industry where we have youngsters coming out, leaving their steady corporate jobs to make people laugh. Being a “comedian” is no more a hobby for millennials and comedy is not just an art form, it is now considered to be one of the most powerful tools for a social and political satire of the society.
Yet, when you picture a comedian in your head, how many times you think of a woman? As Aditi Mittal said, in India, we call them “female comedians”, while everywhere else it is just “comedians”.
Two years back, while going through any “female” comedians’ page, the most visible comment had to be “women can’t be funny”. Last year, TLC hosted “Queens of Comedy” where women found the first-ever platform to have their own comedy show and one of the most consistent comment was,
“They want equality, forced laughter everywhere”, or “they are light years away from being funny”.
Being a “female” comedian is not an easy job in India. A male comedian can freely talk about their genitals and sexual escapades which will definitely win him a couple of hoots and loud jeers from the audience, “broooo”, “woohooo, what a guy” but if a woman starts to talk about their sexual endeavors, someone from the audience will always go “tsk tsk”. Nah, you can not be a woman in India and talk about your own sexual adventures without offending any of your audience. India is still not ready for it, not just yet. Owning your body rights is not that easy, even if you are doing it at a cost of self-deprecating jokes.
To understand the demographics of Indian female comedians and what do the viewers say, we took it to the streets to ask people, about their favorite comedians and asked how many of them follow any female comedian. To our surprise and dismay, most of the young men, working professionals said that they have not really come across any female comedian, whom they really liked and only a couple of them uttered a name or two from the comedy industry who have successfully made an impact. Only a handful of women could come up with more than one name of a female comedian, be it from television or from a stand-up perspective.
While talking to viewers, two things became extremely clear. “Women comedians try too hard by talking about sex”, hence they lose the validity of the “Indian audience”. Another problematic aspect arose from an opinion that humor is most commonly associated with the male gender, “find a man who has a sense of humor”, how many times have you heard the same line for a woman?
Female comedians are also termed as “Feminists” who would only talk about “those things”, hence they fail to gain the acceptance of commoners, and remains an unheard species for most people, even to the young generation.
The most viable medium for the young women comedian to thrive and to gain quick visibility is through the window of virtual space. But along with the visibility, they also gain an unnecessary amount of cyberbullying; taking a quick look at the comment section of their Youtube page will tell you how most of them are advised to take other professions, or called “ugly” because women can’t be funny and the bunch of them who try, are advised to “get married.”
With Initiatives of digital media platforms coming in together to change the demographics of comedy, we have hope. With shows like Comicstaan where young blooming comedians are treated equally, or with shows like TLC Queens of Comedy where women come to perform and the audience cheers loud, we begin to see a changed picture. The change has been slow but imminent and it is here now and we wait to see a better picture for comedy where female comedians can be just called “comedians”. Let’s start today.