ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Contemporary Comedy Is Serious Business

Contemporary American comedians and satirists perform important, multifarious roles in fractious times that engender a cathartic space while speaking truth to power.

The emphatic comedic turn in global popular entertainment has embraced a plethora of mediums and platforms, channelling diverse comedic expressions ranging from physical comedy, burlesque, farce to dark comedy, observational and situational comedy, and wit. As a protean art form and creative industry, contemporary Hindi cinema has been responsive to dynamic pop cultural trends, including the craze for comedy in all its glocal (globallocal) iterations. The trend of mid-budget comedic films reveals imprints of transnational and transmedia influences of onscreen stand-up comedy, showcasing both international and home-grown talents, widely available on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, cable television channels, and live performances and tours held at comedy clubs. The phenomenal popularity and successes of Kapil Sharmas oeuvre of network television comedy and the bawdy humour of Bharti Singh, the global recognition of Vir Das via his four Netflix specials, and ironically, even the notoriety of now-controversial stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui have demonstrated burgeoning glocalised markets for, and the commercial viability of, a broad spectrum of comedic formats and types.

The younger, urban, tech-savvy demographic in India form a sizeable fan base for American stand-up comedy. The stand-up comics traditional antecedents can be traced to farce, wit, and slapstick, the latter being one of the most popular forms of comedy today, enjoying a long and lively history dating back to Greek Theatre of Aristophanes and Hellenistic comedy, and to the figure of the 16th-century Shakespearean clown/fool/jester who hid his wit under the guise of folly. However, British music hall comedy and variety performers and American vaudeville acts are widely accepted as the most immediate antecedents of the contemporary stand-up comedian. The vaudeville, a theatrical genre of variety entertainment popular for nearly 50 years from the 1880s to the 1930s, was, according to David Monod in Vaudeville and the Making of Modern Entertainment, 18901925 (2020), United States first modern mass entertainment and the first leisure industry designed to relax and rejuvenate tired people. Long after its decline, its influence held sway over newer forms of mass media, the radio and television, through artistes who were initially trained in vaudevillian performance style.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Or

To gain instant access to this article (download).


Pay
INR 59

(Readers in India)


Pay
$ 6

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.