In a country like India, where taking offence is a national pastime, how political can the comic scene be? Is it okay to make jokes on politicians and their politics, or is everyone too scared of Jaya Bachchan?
We sent email questionnaires to India’s leading comics and satirist to get answers to these questions. We also asked them to rate themselves on our liberal-conservative scale.
Next on our series is Kunal Rao. An ex- chartered accountant, Rao has performed over 300 shows across India. He also writes humour columns for Mid-Day, Maxim, HT Brunch and Hindustan Times. He is a full-time member of East India Comedy. Rao has even written for and performed in Channel V’s Bollywood OMG – a show that mocked the latest trends in Bollywood.
How political is comedy in India?
A sufficient number of comedians talk about the political situation of the country. But easily 90% of the stand-up comedy being written is non-political.
How important is it for comedy to be political?
It’s not at all. Comedy is comedy. Politics is politics. As a comedian, I can talk about whatever I want and that does not have to include politics. There are plenty of comedians who have written reams of material with not a single political reference, and are doing just fine! A comedian can talk about personal stories, about traveling experiences, about their previous jobs, about culinary tastes, etc. Politics is one teeny-tiny subject in the vast super set of life and the world.
We know there is a large number of liberal comics (writers and performers) in India. But are there any conservative comics in the country? If yes, please name a few.
I wouldn’t claim to know the political preferences of other comedians. Frankly, that would be rather presumptuous.
Where would you place yourself on our liberal–conservative scale?
The definition of the words conservative and liberal are subject to interpretation and I would be careful to classify myself on a scale. However, I would put myself closer to centre. So I’d probably be a 4.5.