Great standup comedians are like sponge. They soak in all the information, observe their surroundings in great detail, develop various insights, and then add their own hilarious twist to them. Ever so often, though, between all the LOLs, they’re bound to latch on to and talk about the uncomfortable truths they see around them, eliciting a curious strain of nervous laughter with generous helpings of awkward silence. Not many comedians can do justice to that sort of comedy. But we found a few who managed to nail it, by tickling our funny bone and nudging our guilty conscience at once.
1. Daniel Fernandes on marital rape
Daniel Fernandes is a Mumbai based stand-up comedian especially known for his often-dark humour that he uses to highlight social and cultural conflict. Armed with an MBA in Marketing from Symbiosis Institute, Fernandes is growing increasingly popular for his careful bits on the death penalty, free speech, student suicides and the Syrian refugee crisis.
At one of his shows in Mumbai, he did a small skit on marital rape and how the government refuses to criminalise it. “But if we’re married, we love each other, she’s my property, then how is it rape?” Bang on. Watch it here:
2. EIC’s Sapan Verma on student suicides
Founded in 2011 by Sorabh Pant, Sapan Verma, Sahil Shah and Kunal Rao, East India Comedy has quickly grown into a formidable force in the Indian comedy scene. Today, the group also includes comedians Atul Khatri, Azeem Banatwalla and Angad Singh Ranyal.
Known for The Ghanta Awards – in which the group awards the worst of Bollywood – and the relatively newer EIC vs Bollywood, they’ve also picked up a massive fan following online with their weekly series on YouTube, EIC Outrage. These are much-anticipated quick videos that highlight current (and usually infuriating) news and issues in a hilarious light.
One such video by Sapan Verma tackled the issue of student suicides caused by the quota system, for which EIC received an overwhelming response. Letters came pouring in from students across the country, taking even Verma by surprise.
ICYMI, here’s the video (and oh, they’re touring this December with this series):
3. AIB featuring Kalki Koechlin & Juhi Pande on rape
All India Bakchod, run by Tanmay Bhat, Gursimran Khamba, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya is one of the most popular comedy groups in the country. Abish Mathew and Kaneez Surka frequently join the group for various projects. Most widely known for the infamous Roast with Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor that got everyone into all sorts of trouble, the group now enjoys a massive fan following, with over a million subscribers on YouTube. Needless to say then that every time they put out a video, the internet goes crazy.
But before all of this, back in 2013, they put out a satire with actress Kalki Koechlin and former VJ Juhi Pande, that hit us real hard. Titled Rape – It’s Your Fault, AIB wrote a powerful script highlighting the favourite Indian go-to argument every time rape comes up – it’s the woman’s fault. Executed flawlessly by two strong, talented women, this video hits you where it hurts:
4. Aditi Mittal on sanitary napkins
One of the most successful female stand-up comedians in the country, Mittal loves making her audience squirm in their seats by talking about issues that shouldn’t make anyone uncomfortable if you really think about it, but they do. She quit her job in New York City, moved back to India as the comedy scene was just picking up, and quickly catapulted way up top with her in-your-face routines.
At a recent Mumbai gig, Mittal brought up the very real problems women face when they try talking about sanitary napkins openly. She also ripped apart multiple sanitary napkin brands for their unrealistic advertisements. Here, we dare you to control your laughter while watching this one.
5. Imran Yusuf on the caste system in India
Imran Yusuf is a British stand-up comedian of Indian descent. He had a prosperous career in the video games industry but took a sabbatical to give stand-up comedy, his real passion, an honest try. He won a stand-up comedy show back in 2004 ‘You Must Be Joking’, and it’s been (what looks like) a raucous ride ever since.
At one of his stand-up shows in 2014, Yusuf explained the breakup of the Indian caste system to a non-Indian audience quite thoroughly. Watch the full video, he nails it at the end.