The Great Indian Humor Challenge

Watching the moronic Shekhar Suman rolling his eyes and cracking the worst kind of PJs in the pathetic Jay Leno-ripoff “Movers and Shakers” and wallowing in the verbal diarrhea-afflicted Sidhu’s infantile attempts at forced laughter on “The Great Indian Comedy Show” and manfully enduring the physical humor that passes off for “comedy” in Indian movies I cannot help but wonder—-what happened to the great comic tradition of India?

Where are the Birbals and the Tenali Rams and the Gopal Bhaands of today?

Afraid. Very much afraid. Because we Indians cannot take a joke. We love to laugh at other regional groups but when the butt-end-dagger of the joke is twisted into us, we are unable to take the acid. So a Bengali will laugh at a Sardar joke but would call a bandh if someone made something up based on the Bong stereotype. A Tamil would laugh at Mithun-da but feel insulted if the joke was on Rajni. A Hindu would poke fun at Islamic traditions but get all uppity once the tables were turned. [An exception: Only Sardars can take Sardar jokes in good spirit]

As is evident, we Indians have notoriously fragile egos and in such an environment, comedians always run the fear of verbal, if not physical, lynching.

Which is why we deserve the Shekhar Sumans and the Navjyot Sidhus and the Johnny Levers and their homogenized and pasteurized humor which because of its excessive sanitization is the only type that is universally acceptable. Which also explains its abysmal quality.

However this kind of irrational sensitivity is not present in other cultures. Take the Americans for example. Every night the way Jay Leno savages celebrities and politicians, one shudders to think what would have happened to the bloated egos in India if even a tenth of this was said on Prime Time Desi TV. Shiv Sainiks would have been ransacking NBC, Yadavs would have been burning trains in Bihar, Bengalis would have started a new political party, Tamils would have been railing against Aryan conspiracies, Amitabh Bachchan would have stopped giving interviews and in general life, as we know, would come to a stop.

Consider this. Laura Bush stands next to her husband during the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and delivers a comic knock out punch to George W Bush making fun of his inability to pronounce “nuclear”, his poor reading habits and even his bedtime activities. Can you imagine this in India?

“Ooh there you go again”, says future anonymous commenter “bootlicking the West.”

I never get this logic. What is the problem in imbibing the good things of the West—their rationality, their work culture and their sense of humor?

Remember also that we were not always as humor-challenged as we are now—-the Upanishads make fun of priests and how rituals are their means of ensuring a cushy financial future. In Bengali literature, no doubt inspired by the anthropomorphic traditions of the Bhakti cult, Vedic Gods acquired flawed human forms which made them endearing, but judged by today’s standards , blasphemous bastardizations of their original Vedic images.

Shiva is depicted as a good-hearted, loyal but forgetful and poor man-of-the-house (funnily the definition of an ideal husband ), Parvati/Durga as the harried housewife trying to make ends meet on the slender pickings of her beggar better half, Nandi and Bhringi are Shiva’s no-good pals/underlings, Kartik is the meterosexual, airhead dandy who goes about wooing women (the Bengali word for meterosexual is “Kartik thakur”) , Ganesh is the pot-bellied genius geek, Saraswati the musically-inclined learned but serious sister and Laxmi who loves money and the good life. Much of 15th-16th century literature talks about their family life and let me tell you it is not charitable to what Bhappi Lahiri would call their “imeej”.

However, it is heartwarming and funny in a way Shekhar Suman can never be and Bal Thackeray can never accept.

As for me, I endeavor to be funny. My humor often is targeted at specific individuals and I know I can get away with it because I am a cowardly blogger who sits an ocean apart from India and , face it, not many people read my blog. If I came on DD Bangla (DD7) and made fun of Mithun-da or the “Gimme Red” CPM bhailog or Mortal Kombat Mamata, I would be in deep shit.

However even here, I am not immune to brickbats. As someone commented, people love my Mithun rantings only because I am a Bengali making fun of another Bengali. If I do the same treatment to Rajanikant or Rahul Dravid would I still be “as funny” ? I would suppose not.

And woe betide me, if like Crystal Blur , I make fun of our glorious epics (which I have done by the way—only not so “in-your-face” as her). I was amazed to see reactions to it on the lines of “an attack on Hindusim” and “making a sex comedy out of a revered epic”. Gawd !

For starters, it is this intolerance and taking oneself too seriously which is an “attack on Hinduism”. So just give it a break. And Mahabharata, as we all know, is a highly sexed-up, amped up story which should be taken for what it is—a wondrous fairy tale encompassing all emotions known to man (including lust) and *not* a sanitized sacred text which cannot be made fun of or re-interpreted.

So can Hindu sensibility never be hurt? Of course it can. Is all art innocent? No it is not.

This is where we should use our judgment and our intellect and recognize the difference between humor and actual attempts to hurt us—else if we club everything together, we lose focus and end up looking like hypersensitive fools.

You want a real example of where Hindusim was attacked. The movie “Fire”—a vulgar, detestable movie despite the fact that it was about my favorite subject in the world—lesbians.

What was the need to name the protagonists as Radha and Sita? There was no humor there. Why was the Sanyasi shown to be suffering from enlarged testicles? No other motive than to show disrespect—again no humor, no contribution to the plot. And the more-than-subtle innuendo that it is Hinduism that oppresses women with the last scene hinting at the two women adopting a different religion—was that necessary in the context of what the movie supposedly was about?

Another example. Why are images of Hindu gods put on foot-wear or lingerie? Why not Jesus Christ’s? Why not Muhammed’s? Because people know they can get away with denigrating Hindu Gods in Europe/US. Putting Christ would lose them their markets, Muhammed their heads.

And another. The monstrosity that passes of as an introduction to Hinduism in California text books:

The monkey king Hanuman loved Rama so much that it is said that he is present every time the Ramayana is told. So look around—see any monkeys

Again no humor here.

And another. The US president celebrates Islamic festivals in the White House but when it comes to Diwali it is given a miss. Official reason: “Hinduism is religion-specific and not country-specific”….hello ? Does Id/Christmas/Hanukkah sound country-specific?

These above are valid issues— however not things for which we should be engaging in violence or disruption. Doing so would go against the grain of the very culture we claim to be so sensitive about. Of course that does not mean we should not protest—obviously we should but in a civil fashion.

It is undeniable that the people who have critiqued Crytal Blur are well within their rights to do so as long as they don’t engage in Shiv Sainik behavior–which they haven’t. And they do have the right to be hurt and vent their feelings—just as I have my right to think that they have gone over-the-top. I genuinely believe that Crystal Blur’s Mahabharata isnt just a juxtaposition of naughty words—there is genuine humor there…..and the motive isnt just to shock for the sake of doing so. I also don’t find any disrespect to Hinduism…. as of yet.

But the more important thing to consider is what would happen if what Crystal Blur has written becomes really really popular (and I wish it does not for her sake) in India. Then it surely does have the potential to make people get out on the streets, frothing at the mouth and running around in a frenzy. They don’t need to know what a blog is or what English is, someone just needs to tell them that Hindus/backward castes/Muslims/ are under attack and they will all be running around like programmed orang-otangs.

And it is precisely this kind of knee-jerk reaction for which comedians in India, at least the ones who are in the popular media, have to stay on the straight and narrow path.

Correction. There was one person who tried to do something different—someone who was genuinely funny and whose humor had teeth. His name was Sajid Khan and his “Kahene Main Kya Harj Hain” (Sony) was one of the funniest half hours on Indian TV. Ever.

But his comedy was, by Indian standards, too offensive and too biting. (I remember he once did a rather caustic take-off on Dilip Kumar on Zee Cinema–the program was “Ikke Pe Ikka” possibly and soon there were angry outraged mails on the writeback section in Zee saying that one of the doyens of Indian movies has been insulted and Zee should do something about it) . Tragically yanked from prime time and never given his due because his humor was too “out there” and thus unable to command a following like Shekhar Suman (and his TRP), Sajid today plies his trade on “Saab TV” which can honestly be said to represent the bottom of the Indian television channel foodchain. And also does a guest apperance or two on “The Great Indian Comedy Show” as a glorified extra while the supremely untalented Shekhar Suman hosts the jamboree.

However it still must be said that it was prudent on the part of Sajid to have only made fun of film stars. If he had made fun of Sonia Gandhi’s Hindi or lesbian Indian politicians or Vajpayee’s “Thodi Si Jo Pee Li Hain” or Mayawati’s “Salaam Namaste” lifestyle or LPY’s chamiya dance with Kholkarni or horny nude sadhus then he would have been six feet under in no time.

Compared to that fate, I am sure he prefers Saab TV.

And so do we.

[Check out this similarly themed post from Gaurav]

57 thoughts on “The Great Indian Humor Challenge

  1. Excuse me? Are you making fun of my surname? 🙂 You may expect a charge of Kulkarni’s in your neighborhood at your door pretty soon.

    On the topic, sadly, if you don’t know yet, we are hypocrites. We don’t need any Crystal Blur to tell us that Mahabharata is full of sex and violence. In fact we don’t need anyone to talk about sex in public. Shhhh!

  2. I’ve found Anglo Saxons (and their derivatives – the Brits, Americans)/Lations/African americans/French to be very receptive to humour and they play along extremely well in the true spirit of it. However several other prominent races are very reserved and do not take to humour lightly. Promiment examples are the Germans and the Japanese. If you have had the misfortune of working with the Swiss (the worst IMO), you would forget how to laugh in 60days straight.

  3. I think people too dont like such humor too; or I should say peopel didnt like such humor in past.

    I think with time, we should be seeing same amount of humor as we see in west. We were very constricted anyways and the media wouldnt want to take too much risk in India taking ppl to task. However with media explosion and more of TV, I think the humor culuture will eventually grow in INdia too.

    Take for example – Indian Idol – now such a a show would never have worked in India a few years back because of the rudeness factor of judges towards participants; Kamzor Kadi Kaun suffered because of the same effect – ppl didnt like it. Now Indian Idol is one of biggest show in televisions. Same will apply to type of Jay-Lenoish humor we see here; give it some time, perhaps, err.. .umm a decade, and we will be as good, as raunchy and as humorous as the western counterparts… LOL – I dont know if thats good or bad!

    Good post – Cheers!


  4. Greatbong… first of all, the change in the picture presents you really differently 🙂 Also, another round of congratulations for being nominated for the Indiblog of the Year

    Ok, on the topic, well, I got a clip of Russel Peters from the net, and he had a great dig at all Indians, Chinese, Jamaicans… you name it. I enjoyed it thoroughly. While the antics of Shekhar Suman and Navjot Sidhu are not so welcome all the time, there are one or two genuine comedians on that show (not all), whose performances are almost always the best of the lot (like Raju Shrivastav’s digs at the Bhaiyya-folk from UP and Bihar). Therefore, I agree with most of what you said, minus some portions.

  5. the Bengali word for meterosexual is “Kartik thakur”

    Brilliant. Simply Brilliant. But to be fair British comedy is mostly toilet humour and men dressing as women.

    Its really painful when Shekhar Suman lifts off entire sequences from Jay Leno. Incidentaly, have you seen the gang on the Great Indian Comedy Show, some of their skits have great potential. I loved their Ekta Kapoor takeoffs.

  6. why do you think most desis dont enjoy a movie like
    “People versus Larry Flint?”

  7. The older picture of yours was far better.
    Yes Greatbong, we do not know how to laugh at ourselves. That seems to be the fundamental problem or let me put it this way we are not receptive to laughter criticism.

  8. yes, sudipta, Raju Srivastav is really good.

  9. Your post reminds me of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues. The American cartoonist got rave reviews from around the world… Someone even went to the extent of saying that she wouldn’t know what Ramayana was all about simply because she was amreekan. An American giving her version of the classic Indian text? Unheard of… unacceptable is more like it. Why? Well, the guy’s explanation was that Ramayana is everything that America can never be… Comparing amreekan women to Sita? Blasphemy! Check her website:

  10. I would give my right arm to see an Indian “Daily Show with Jon stewart” or a “Little Britain”.

  11. Wonderful Blog!!! The only other place where I reached late and read all of the archived stuff was on PhD Comics. Brilliant stuff. I seem to like your funny posts more than some which are a bit more “substantial”. Will keep coming back 🙂

    p.s. happy to see yet another JUite rocking.

  12. stupendous!!! honestly, I don’t know whether it’s right to say that you are “wasting your talent” writing here … but you can surely harness it far better … I can easily think of half a dozen leading newspaper editors who may want to lap you up as a regular columnist if you know how to go about it …

    i am almost tempted to change my nick to “yourfan3” 🙂

  13. GB – Well put, as usual. Another small example of our failure to accept good natured humour directed against our so called hallowed institutions :
    I remember sometime in the late 80s (just before the cable boom), there was going to be a TV sitcom about a bumbling police officer (on the lines of Inspector Clouseau) on DD. However the show got canned (or perhaps even banned after it was made) due to protests that it would project the Indian police force in a ‘bad light’ !

    The other related issue here is the lack of humour/comic writers in contemporary Indian literature. I do not know about other languages, but in Bong literature, where is the next Tenida, Harshavardhan or Lalmohan Ganguly ? Heck what happened to Inspector Moochwala and his trusted dog Pooch ? We are altogether becoming far too serious and grim.
    Hail bloggers like Great Bong, Crystal Blur, Curiousgawker etc. for injecting those much needed doses of humour every day.

    The issues with ‘Fire’ and Deepa Mehta could/should have been the subject of an altogether separate post (let me know if you if you need more inputs for rants against the movie and the director) .

    @ Red : British comedy is mostly toilet humour and men dressing as women.
    — What ? Go read/watch: Wodehouse, Jerome K Jerome, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Yes Minister, Are you Being Served, Terry Prachett (or even the more recent Office, Coupling ) et al

    (OK I will accept that Terry Jones did usually appear as a woman in the Python sketches.)

  14. I never missed a single episode of Kehne mein kya harz hai…. That show deserves to push the K-serials off their comfy perch… If only, we’d learn to laugh at ourselves for once…. in a even a slightly less puerile manner that we’ve grown so accustomed to.
    Seriously, where are people like Pu La today!! 😦

  15. Hahahaha. Indians, sex, talk! Hahahaha. I don’t know what happened to us in the 300-odd years of colonisation but while the Brits became sexually liberated, we became like the Brits, a outwardly repressed race. What happened to those 17th century Rajasthani miniatures depicting gymnastic sex acts – oddly they disappeared.
    Read my last post on sex. We bang like nothing on earth, but do we talk about it.. Nooooooo…
    The problem with humour on TV is that it is made for these repressed souls. India will never have a Jon Stewart, because making fun of a politician (save LPY) would get you thrown in jail for sedition – heck Ambika Soni is worked up because Mulayam Singh Yadav had the ‘temerity’ to address SG as Sonia and not Soniaji.
    Forget comic TV, there is hardly any good mainstream comic writing, save the occasional Jug S column (occasional because his ‘Bunny and I’ columns are not-funny). Heck, remember the Ponytail got worked up when we made jokes about him – telling editors that we ‘were attacking him personally’. People can’t take a joke in India.
    And considering that this is the country that gave the world pot, that is a very sad state of affairs indeed.
    As usual, tomar lekha daroon.

  16. This is becoming highly repetitive, but Great post Great Bong. If only everyone learns to argue and not to shout…

  17. You say it is ok to make fun as long as you don’t disrespect the religion. Why not? Also, what if it’s disrespectful but true? I don’t think Crystal Blur is respectful, but so what?

  18. Totally agree. Except that Sab TV is not that bad. It, in fact, hosts a show called ‘Wah Wah’ that can boast of some of the old-style, witty, Indian humor.Well mostly.

  19. In a related vein, a Bong walks into a Dhaba, surrounded by Sardars. The sardars all look at him threateningly, expecting him to disturb the bhangra-butter-chicken fest with some treatise on Tagore…so to lighten things up, he decides he’ll tell ’em a joke…Just as he’s about to begin he realizes it’s a sardar he quickly changes it last minute…

    Bong says: “Ek Bihari babu…”


    (All the sardars start kicking his ass)

    So the poor Bong starts pleading:

    “Sardarjis, what did I do…?”

    The surdies respond with:

    “Sarey sardar mar gaye kya? Yeh Bihari kahan se aa gaya joke mein?”

    Laugh. It’s funny. In punjabi at least.

  20. @Jatayu

    I was thinking about Monty Python, Are you Being Served, Litte Britain etc, all of which I love. Terry Pratchett of course is brilliant

  21. about the post regarding the best movies of 2005, i think you have missed the best of the lot — hazaron khwaisien aisi. this is a tremendous movie with great acting by shiny ahuja, chitrangada and kk. sorry for the delay…

  22. “Every night the way Jay Leno savages celebrities and politicians, one shudders to think what would have happened to the bloated egos in India if even a tenth of this was said on Prime Time Desi TV.”

    not to mention Jon Stewart… someone already said they’d give an arm to see a Jon Stewart-like show here. Well you can add an arm and a leg of mine to that list too. Never found Leno *that* funny though…

    and as for british humor being mostly toilet humor…aghor paap.. Monty Python & ‘The Office’ are great.

    and yea..Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi was indeed good.

  23. I loved ‘alo alo’&’black adder’. ‘Whose line is it anyway’ was another gud one.
    In desi comedies, any body remember ‘zabaan sambhaal ke'(from mind ur language) or ‘shrimaan shrimati’, they were on DD metro in its heydays.
    Last year I saw ‘Kumars at 42’. It was funny but most episodes were reruns. They made travesty of ‘the kumars…’ on sony called ‘the –wallas at –‘, extremely boring with forced humour(reminds u of zayed khan in shabd and his sardar/lalaji jokes…damn).
    But…I do agree gud desi comedies are yet to be made (again). Remember ‘Jaane bhi do yarron’ or Utpal Dutts and Amol Palekar movies.

  24. Excellent post, and bang on target.

    good stuff.

    And for some more good stuff on tv (no, not leno), watch the Colbert report, or Jon Stewart, or the awesome Chris Rock. Now that is the good stuff. Can never get enough of it.

    And a very happy new year to you!

  25. Why are images of Hindu gods put on foot-wear or lingerie? Why not Jesus Christ’s? Why not Muhammed’s? Because people know they can get away with denigrating Hindu Gods in Europe/US. Putting Christ would lose them their markets, Muhammed their heads.

    Well, I have to disagree. I live in France and travel across Europe frequently and believe me Hindu gods fare way way better than Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus appearing on lingerie(and bikinis of course :p) I have seen t-shirts with slogans so offensive(example: Jesus is a cunt) that even Jesus may have started riots. Recently there was a cartoon in a French newspaper where a naked Jesus was seen holding condoms. So, to say that it is just Hindu gods who are meted out such treatment is, I feel is not correct. You may be right about Muhammad though.

    As to the point of Indian society’s rigidness, the problem as I see it is that we as a people readily accept that freedom of speech is subject to limitations(even the constitution says that freedom of speech is not absolute and should not be used to offend anyone). This attitude has meant that we try and please each and every linguistic/religious/political group and try not to offend them. We are so sensitive that we ban each and every book that is even mildly offensive to anybody, be it Satanic Verses or the Shivaji Book or even the Nathoram Ghodse play. Someone once said that “One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”, seems it doesn’t apply in India.

    So,in a country where each and everything is a “sacred cow”, we may never see a Chris Rock or a Woody Allen or even a Steve Martin. I cannot in all eternity imagine something like The Aristocrats produced in India.

    P.S: I forgot to mention the anomaly in the Indian psyche aka the Sardar, the only people who have a heart big enough to laugh on a joke about themselves by told other people. Papaji, tusi great ho.

  26. Ten on ten. The gulf between American and Indian sense of humour is wide, very wide. And an Indian Jon Stewart will remain a dream…I guess it’ll never happen in our lifetime.
    Like in other spheres, it’s not as if things are not changing. But they are changing in a pathetic way. eg. sometime back NDTV had this sorry puppetry show of all Indian politicians and a special guest puppet on Musharraf. The idea was cool..the puppets were well-designed, but the implementation and the so-called ‘jokes’ in it were so don’t want to hear it. It was the same trite jokes repeated over and over and over until you felt like puking out yr intestines. One look at the comments section of yr Indiatimes blog post (which can be safely taken as a representative sample for stats purposes) and we can conclude that if a world humour ranking were to be taken Indians would rank the lowest… even below our corruption index. I would put even put Iran above us (look at what their Prez stated about Holocaust recently. If that is not humour what else is). Am I right or what?
    Humour is quite a fine line and I agree that religious symbols on footwear and lingerie is downright offensive..but I guess if westerners do it…the same libertarian values can be rallied upon to defend it. What say? eg. the entire FSM deal is a mockery on the Bible and Christianity and I can imagine why some decent, peace-loving Catholics will get offended by the “touch of his noodly appendage”. In the same way you can expect Muslims to get offended if Quran/Mohammed were to be blasphemised (I am not justifying the violence/book-ban though)….so you gotto give it to them. Rushdie can always claim, “well this is my interpretation of Islam and stick ur morality to [unmentionable body part]”…which is fine by me..but then again, where do you draw the line? or should everything be off-limits? And one would think Deepa Mehta doing it is unpardonable, but hey..if westerners can do it with Catholics and their flags, then she too should be free to portray whatever she wants. I hope I am making my point here, which is to know yr opinion on “whether there should be any limits at all? and if yes, then that dreaded follow-up question, how do we come decide on those limits?”

    Having said all that, would like to read your take on Rajnikant or Dilip Kumar for that matter on any religion/group. But dare you touch Islam…coz “Musalmaan gir bhi jaaye phir bhi tangdi tau upar hi rehti hai”* (sorry guys, no translations)

    ps: w.r.t. SajidKhan, ironically Dilip Kumar himself can take all the jokes..I recollect reading some his interview in an Urdu paper when ShivSainiks danced in their undies in front of his bungalow and he oh-so artistically (by a brush of a Ghalibana sher or two) dusted it aside. Not to say he didn’t take offence to the indecency which was the meat of the interview. But the man uses his brains and heart in the right mix.

  27. *mandatory short comment of random points missed in prevs long comment*

    a) Quick googling shows Diwali being celebrated in WhiteHouse. Are we talking the same issue here?

    b) The Indiatimes post I mentioned is this. Most of you greatBong fans like me, would’ve already read the article…but trust me..just read those precious comments. You’ll be weeping with laughter. After a certain point I was hypnotised into hallucinating fake humour elements even when there were none.

  28. And while we are on the topic, I hope someone here can point me where to obtain CDs/casettes of Babban Khan’s Adrak ke Panje. His story is rooted in a cruel humorous tale of himself:
    The story of Adrak is borne out of the story of Babban. His parents were unaware of family planning. The result was that three brothers and four sisters died due to malnutrition and lack of proper medical care. In fact, Babban’s parents refused to name him till he was 10 just in case he died too!. Written way back in 1965, Adrak is based on the theme of family planning. It is in the form of a one-man piece enacted by Babban himself. What makes the play still popular is the comic note which transcends all barriers of time and place.

    Come on guys, atleast some grey hairs here should know.

  29. @Nku: No we dont. Unless we want PILs heaped on us.

    @Bengali Guy: But we as a nation did have an excellent sense of humor. Historically.

    @Supremus: Valid point about India’s acceptance of rudeness. But look at the attitude of some bloggers, exposed to supposedly liberal US culture. Even they cannot take Crystal Blur in the proper spirit. And I write a news blog on Indiatimes—there as Suhail points out the level of humor comprehension has to be seen to be believed.

    @Sudipta: Okay let me deal with the picture thing here. I felt with the new year I will unleash something new. (not necessarily pleasing) As my new year posts have all been kinda serious, I thought I will keep the “where’s the comedy?” readers satisfied with my picture. I know its a cheap way to get laughs but hey it’s all good.

    Ok seriously.In my defense, the image size gets set by Blogger and hence its a bit distorted. At least thats my story.

    Thank you—-my opinion on the Indibloggies will be coming. I havent seen a lot of Raju Srivastava and that may color my opinion—but I found his “buffet skit” pretty lame. And Sidhu and Suman’s exaggerated laughter a total put off.

    @Red: Yes it is painful—even the set design.

    @Anon: What an amaaaazing movie. Gawd one of my favorites…a movie about balls. And no I am not talking about Courtney Love.

    @Partha: Well you can always laugh at my picture. Noone will take offense.

    @Ritwik: As I said maybe seen too little of him.

    @Shivani: Interesting. Thanks for the pointer…one of the pleasures of blogging–getting to know so many things.

    @Anil: True. But John Stewart in India? Better chance of seeing Sushmita without her impants than that.

    @Voice Within: Good to see a fellow JU-ite reading me. Do keep visiting.

    @Bonatellis: :-)…please do tell me who these editors are and how to “go about it”. I presume the first step would be to reinstate my old picture 🙂

    @Jatayu: Well Bong lit is dying. Simple as that.

    As for British comedy, my all time favorite is “Yes Minister/Prime Minister”. Sublime comedy. Low brow but still amazing—Fawlty Towers and Are you being served and Allo Allo. And oh of course Monty Python–top classs.

    @Pleiades: Neither did I. My favorite episodes–the “Bol” count, the gay song and Manoj Kumar’s amazing ham scene. My fascination with Bollywood B originated from Sajid Khan.

    @K: Thank you. The Ambika Soni level of “umbrage” shows what comedians are up against as.

    @Dreamweaver: Thank you.

    @Kingsley: There are 2 things—disrespecting religion and disrespecting your religion and glorifying mine. The first one is okay as it basically makes fun of “all religious ideals” while the second is the one that causes friction. I dont feel Crystal Blur does either—calling Bhisma a virgin does not shake Hindu dharma in any way. Neither does conjuring up images of Vichitravirya doing a 3-way.

    @Lucy: Well it may have decent shows but you have to accept, not many people watch it.

    @TTG: Classic !!!

    @Anon: Yes other commenters have made the point also.

    @Pukercense: True Leno appeals to a lower denominator whereas Stewart is very subtle and biting. But even the Leno type of lowbrow laugh-out-loud humor is absent on Indian TV —far less the Stewart variety.

    @Modest Mouse: Do remember those serials. And “Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi”. “Jaane Bhi” is …well…wow….pity there can be only one “Jaane Bhi”. Not possible to emulate. Farce at its greatest.

    @ Sunil: Yes the Comedy Central guys rock. Cant believe its US TV. And another guy who is an idol of mine—Bill Maher on HBO.

    @Anil: Well that may be because of European attitude towards religion( that too select areas) However in US, if a supermarket clerk does not say “Merry Christmas”, the bully known as Bill O Reilly comes on national TV asking for a boycott of the concerned store as saying “Happy Holidays” as opposed to “Merry Christmas” is unAmerican.
    And people listen to him across the country.

    And truly Tussi Great Ho Paaji…also Mithun-da’s forthcoming release.

    @Suhail: Agree. What I meant was that Dubya gave Diwali a miss and instead sent lowly ranked officials in his stead but attended celebrations of other religious occasions at the White House. And that excuse mentioned in my post was what was given by the WH “officially”.

    Adrak ke Panje–wow my second big funda for the day. I always thought Mousetrap was the longest running public performance.

  30. ohk I didn’t know these details. Yr argument is valid then but when we are talking Dubya, the excuses have to be lame. Why complain :p
    As for Bill O’Whiney..I don’t think the whole America falls for him. Infact even many conservatives admit that he’s an idiot..and Letterman said it in as many words yesterday.(“60% of what you say is crap”)

    and yes, Babban Khan IS huge. Now if only I could grab his CD from somewhere.

  31. @kingsley :

    Being selectively disrespectful to a particular religion is distasteful. So
    if you say that Hussein can draw a Hindu goddess nude, then I also have the right to draw Muhammad copulating with a pig. Simple as that.

    @GB: Great post and you spoke my mind.
    Now a lot of of people dont have idea about this India Blogs things. Please make a short post on it. Needless to say , Ill vote for you.
    Regarding the picture, Ill let yourfan comment first..then Ill have my say.

    To all:

    Dikawat pe mat jao, apni akal lagao.
    Dont go by the frequency of posts on other blogs…look at substance. Please vote for Greatbong, the best Indian Blogger.

    @sudipta: Russel Peters was superb!

  32. there was this sardar kid who came first in first standard…his father was really shocked followed by upeset…he screamed…” bloody sardarni who have you slept with? this intelligent boy can’t be my kid he is not a sardar boy…i shall divorce you…”
    she gets worried and assures him that the chotu sardar will never come first again….
    next year history repeats itself…he comes first again and there is a hungama in the sardar household again.
    sardarni consults a brain surgeon who tells that by mistake your son is born with a brain ….but not to worry ji…i shall remove it…
    and they operate on the chotu sardar’s brain.
    after the operation the doc comes out worried and says ‘ i am sorry but i could only remove half of the brain …so…”
    sardarni and sardaji rush to the boy’s bed as he opens his eyes and says,….


    ” aamaar naam ki?”

  33. STOP PRESS!! – I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it seems Mithunda won’t be doing the movie
    ‘Tussi Great Ho Paaji’.

    Instead the role will be played by Navjot Sidhu and cast will include Omar Sheriff(the pakistani comedian) and that assclown Shekar Suman.

    The grapevine has it that Sidhu was chosen instead of Mithunda because of his supposedly superior English skills(example: The ball went so high it could have brought an air hostess back), as an enraged Mithun fan I advocate a Bill O’Reilly style boycott of the movie.

  34. u r right. i like intelligent comedy.
    catch the movie 7 and 1/2 phere.

  35. @GB – methinks we lost it during the 500years of oppression by alien cultures, when poking fun about the state of affairs would probably tantamount to death. 500yrs is a long long time.

  36. @yourfan2: I hope I didnt scare away yourfan with my mug. The voting has begun..will put up a post.

    @Silbil: 🙂

    @Anil: Well they just lost a few viewers here…Sidhu…who cares.

    @Dwaipayan: It got bad reviews but my wife, who saw it, liked it. So yes maybe I shall see it too.

    @Bengali Guy: Maybe…

  37. @greatbong : I might have read this wrong, but I thought you had a problem with disrespect for any religion if it did not add humor value. Isn’t that your case against Fire? There is nothing wrong with disrespecting one religion while glorifying another, regardless of humor (which you’ll agree is subjective. I thought Radha and Sita were funny). Doesn’t everyone respect their religion more than others’? Because if they didn’t they would belong to all religions instead of one.

    @yourfan2: You say “Being selectively disrespectful to a particular religion is distasteful.” Does that mean Hussain should be forced to make demeaning images of Mohammed?

    The point I’m trying to make is that it should be perfectly legal to be disrespectful to any religion you want however much you want. Anything less is hypocritical.

  38. @Kingsley: No that was not my point. My point was that the makers of Fire could not even make the excuse that the plot demanded it. And Fire isnt irreverent to all religions—its Hindusim that is targeted and another religion subtly promoted. If you thought the names Radha and Sita were funny, then Kingsley I think you are really in a minority. You gotta explain the humor to me here..sorry.( I understand your point: someone’s humor is someone’s poison—but this is really a debating point: somethings [like what was shown on Fire] are so out-there that it is no longer in the gray area any longer where it is a matter of “perception”]

  39. well whaddya know..atleast someone seems to think interpretations dont kill [aka crys]..thought the blogosphere was hijacked by shiv-sena or smtg [ah well..still some time to go]..interesting post, and point about the humor of it all..and bingo on the ‘you said smtg mean, you must be a accent-infused firangi NRI’ [well wotever THAT get my point]..the extrapolation of any spoof to lack of regionalist, religionist, nationalist tendencies [like that were a bad thing] is insane, to say the least.

    overdose, sometimes, is the best antidote 🙂

    PS–late response here methinks

  40. As someone already mentioned, “Wah wah” on SAB tv (now “Sony SAB”) is absolutely clean and actually puts “The great indian laughter challenge” to “no level” status.

    Host of “wah wah” is also amazing unlike Siddhu.

    Must see. Comes on Thursday. The 31st Dec special 2hr show is also must see if you can see.

  41. @GB: You wrote to @yourfan2: “I hope I didn’t scare away yourfan with my mug”. You mean to tell me that you think me to be sooo pretty that I will be scared away with your pictures!! You haven’t seen me!! Now don’t get discouraged – don’t read this with a long face – I have not said that I am bad looking or an Aiswaria. All I am doing is showing that I too can laugh at myself (although with all humility I must say that I don’t have any reason to laugh at myself as far as ‘looks’ are concerned) – the quality that we Indians generally lack!! Jokes apart I have already commented about your pictures on your “Campaign Poster”.

    @Bonatellis: “I am almost tempted to change my nick to “yourfan3” :)” – I feel so happy. Why don’t you write yourfan3 along your nickname? Bonatellis –yourfan3 – looks/sound good.

    @yourfan2: “Regarding the picture, Ill let yourfan comment first..then Ill have my say.” You make me feel special. But honestly I don’t deserve to be special in any way. Nevertheless I feel honored. I have already commented on GB’s pic in Campaign Poster. So waiting eagerly for your comments on the same.

  42. As also mentioned by you, I feel that sardars are the most mature species found on this sub-continent owing to thier ability to laugh at themselves. This reminds me of a story that claims to be the origin of Barah Baj Gaye. I really loved its ending that says:Its easy to joke on a Sardar, but its too difficult to be a Sardar.

    About the USP (US President) not celebrating Diwali, etc., we shouldn’t get disappointed by it and celebrate on our own. We Indians have the tendency to look up to tit-bits thrown by the Gori Chamdi, which I seriously believe is a retrograde attitude. We don’t need USP’s sanction to celebrate our festivals and should rather avoid getting milage from it (already we have lost a lot to politics).

  43. At least here for this reason, i can give a pat on the back for Lalloo….He likes being the butt of all jokers ( i mean jokes..).

  44. What ? You want everyone to make a joke of our “Sacred epic and Monkeys”. It’s only because your name is not Is-mail, that we are leaving you now. 😉

  45. Very well written post.. I do like the mahabharata series written by Crystal..but it’s true, had it been claimed to have been written by a muslim/christian et al, I guess hindus would have probably felt insulted or poked-fun-at, rather than taking it in good humour..(not that it’s any better currently) coz there never really is dearth of sarcasm/insult lurking in the garb of good humour.

    Regarding the indian comedy stuff, shekhar suman/navjot sidhu are pretty lame. Sajid khan is *really* what I would call a guy with a sense of humor. He comes on Star one on a game show as a host, but inspite of the show being total timepass, I love watching it because of Sajid’s anchoring. Also TGICS has some spoofs which are *really* really hilarious..but then sadly 70% of the show turns out to be crap. Similary the laughter challenge has, I would say 90% crap. Raju srivastava’s humour is what can be classified as lewd, not witty.

  46. There’s no doubt that Shekhar Suman and Navjot Sidhu are sad creeps, there’s no doubt that we stay in a country of repressed souls. But the fact is that humour in Indian TV has become far more permissive of late. Shekhar Suman takes a dig at virtually every politician (the outcome is usually lewd and seldom witty,but that’s besides the point), MTV’s fully faltoo pokes fun at every actor worth his/her name and other comedy shows like “double-take” are also fairly critical of celebs.

    My point is that humour in india is sad because we lack a sense of humour,compared to western nations. The poor quality doesn’t have much to do with represssion. It’s true that we have become intolerant and religious fundamentalists have turned vandals while registering their protests. But, if you notice, such protests have happened only when Hussain paints Hindu Gods in the nude, or when Deepa Mehta touches upon Varanasi’s widow or somebody tries to “denigrate” Shivaji by daring to point out facts. I can’t recall a single protest when a comedian has poked fun at someone else in a humour show.

  47. Actually while Shekhar has only a few genuine goodies, the rest of the team on the TGICS is pretty good. The Saas-bahu spoof, “Sadda Mannu”, “Chuttaman” are all socio-relevant, often scating and fun.
    Lst week there was one where real psycho bank robbers get recruited as ‘loan recovery officers’ based on their skillset on the job. And have you seen the Kill Bill inspired “Umaben” ? V decent.

  48. What do you know about Tolerance? I have read many of your blogs and many of crystal blur’s. Everytime I read a blog, I became less tolerant to what is written. Dont you people think that the line has been jumped several times? After all, how tolerant could you get when you see someone who you love and believe being crushed in front of you? What would you do Greatbong if you are seeing a group of persons raping your mom one by one? Would you be tolerant? Don’t think that this is a hate mail. Also, I am not trying to educate you. But remember that everytime you write a blog for your own creative satisfaction, it may be affecting a lot of people adversely. I think that you people should be act responsibly and not float around all this on the net.

    Mahabharata has for its core the Bhagavad Geeta, which is as the world is beginning to find out, the noblest of scriptures and the grandest of the sagas in which the climax is reached in the wonderous Apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto! The “epic” has been an unfailing and perenial source of spiritual strength.

    Don’t try to find flaws in something so wonderful.

  49. koi yahaan wahaan, nache, nache…. !!!

  50. “Mortal Kombat Mamata”

    First time…first time ever in my life i have actually rolled on the floor laughing reading something !!!!!!!!

  51. I agree with all the rest but one point: that Shekhar Suman is untalented. i think given an opportunity he can by far outperform any given actor in the television industry but he too indulges in all this shit coz this is what sells and afterall he gotta earn too!

  52. hi…..hansi ka maha dose, SIDHU Paaji….yes friends laughter challenge !!!! but I have heard that LC part 3 is gonna begin soon!!! Is it true?. Well the older ones, Yes the laughter challenge 1 and 2 !!!!!! u can always get the clips on, this site have downloadable clips .

  53. was jus trying to google kehne mein kya harj hai and got this ANYONE out there – is there any place i can get old episodes of the was seriously the funniest thing i ever saw on indian tv..i still laugh thinking about the kishan joothani segment

    plz get back to me on with ANYTHING!!

  54. Jaspal Bhatti- Flop Show. Thought I’d mention that.

  55. @ arnab da:

    you can add Count Khanula’s apology to Manoj Kumar for that gag in Om Shanti Om to the list. apparently making fun of someone signature style of covering his face was ‘unpatriotic’.

    the bhakti depictions of Shiv’s life reminds me of the Simpsons. which is strangely full circle i had just started reading blogs when the whole Apu controversy broke.

    i should have cited this article back to you then :).

    yes yes.. i know.. it goes beyond that..

  56. I found this post interesting, but there are some things I agree and disagree with. Watching Movers and Shakers/ Dekh Bhai Dekh/ Zabaan Sambhalke, was pretty much the beginning of good humor, maybe a bit slapstick at times , but they were quite entertaining.

    And yes, even I find Sidhu laughing a bit too much. But thinking about it, I think it’s a good gesture. Some contestants who come to this challenge are not as funny, but Siddhu’s laughter, I am sure, gives them some encouragement and helps them to overcome the nervousness . Imagine how bad it would be if someone says a joke but no one in the audience or Siddhu or Shekhar Suman does not laugh.

    Lastly, it’s nice to see some good old shows thanks to youtube.

  57. I loved both this blog and the lovely article 🙂
    Always looking forward to read exciting stuffs like this one. Wish you good luck !!

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