(This section is a small part of a larger chapter on the gender dynamics within the Indian stand-up comedy industry that is about a decade old at the moment)
Due to the limited time and space available for contextualising the slides used, I am going to use this space to individually, briefly explain the purpose behind each slide in a couple of lines.
Slide 3: Apart from the self-presentation of comics in public, news media including print and online sources influence how they are perceived. Most interviews are “manels” where only male comics debate the limits of freedom of speech and the “courage” it takes to do “political comedy” as they talk about governmental politics on stage. Women are not considered at all because they don’t do it “at the level of men.”
Slide 4: My argument in this section was mainly that women (here, cis-women) experience the control of the state through their bodies: the roles they are expected to play under the paternalistic, patriarchal state that holds them under surveillance perpetually. Therefore, they play out their relationship with the nation and the State through narratives of their bodies and gender roles.
Slide 5 and 6: Aditi Mittal is one of the earliest and popular female comics in India. This trailer from her Netflix special “Girl Meets Mic” is an assertion of her place within the comedy industry. Comedian Agrima Joshua’s clip (which is mainly in Hindi, with my translations in the slide) summarises my argument about the masculinist nature of political comedy in the Indian context. she demonstrates how the minute she makes refers to the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi in her joke, her comedy immediately becomes “important for the world” but not when she spoke of her own life.
Slide 7-11: Some theorists such as Caliskan have convincingly argued that even without the overt presence of challenging narratives in comedy by women, they challenge the dominant narrative simply through their presence. Here I take the argument slightly further here because a lot of Indian female comics like Sumaira Sheikh actively avoid “controversial” topics in their routines and still remain popular among audiences. Such narratives can be contexutalised by looking at them as “situated comedy.” The one thing that remains common in these diverse narratives is that they all stem from their personal lives and truths, however mundane or political they might be. “Situated comedy” includes any kind of force that propels, hinders or retains a person within the space they currently inhabit. Additionally, forces that hinder could perhaps be positive in that they may keep one grounded, and forces that propel could be negative in that they reinforce some of the beliefs one already holds while leaving little space for self-critique and awareness; or they may make no difference at all. I propose that looking at these narratives as “situated” accounts for and validates women’s personal experiences which may be the first step toward developing a more robust comedic persona.
Caliskan, S. (1995). Is there such a thing as Women's Humor? American Studies International, 33(2), pp. 49-59.
Haraway, D. (1988). Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Femiinist Studies, 14(3), pp 575-599.
Konig, L. (2013). Cultural Citizenship and the Politics of Censorship in Post-Colonial India: Media, Power, and the Making of the Citizen. Ph.D. Dissertation.
Krefting, R. (2014). All Joking Aside: Ameerican Humor and its Discontents. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.