When we look at humour, it is important to separate politics from politicians. As a professional comedian, on many occasions I have had politicians at shows and not once has the politician ever had a problem with any kind of humour at all. In fact most politicians have themselves lamented at the lack of humour in political discourse. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for those who surround these politicians who feel that their only way of getting favour is by pandering to the egos of the powers that be. In my own comedy routine, before I make a joke about our honourable Prime Minister, I myself say that I’m a fan of Mr Modi but I’m not a fan of Mr Modi’s fans. In fact in a recent interview on a television channel, Mr Modi himself said that he was afraid to be humorous or crack a joke because of how it is blown out of proportion.
You only have to look at the recent past to see what our Prime Minister is capable of. When giving a speech to US Congress, he said, “I am informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious. I am also told that you are well-known for your bipartisanship. Well, you are not alone.” he said. “Time and again, I have also witnessed a similar spirit in the Indian Parliament, especially in our Upper House.” I remember practically falling off my chair when I heard those words live. It was world-class stuff.
Mary Hirsch, a writer and teacher of humorous writing, famously said that humour is like a rubber sword -- it allows you to make a point without drawing blood. The problem with the new sensationalist environment and the race to capture eyeballs is that everybody is baying for blood. And the media has to take some of the blame for it too. Comedian Rajneesh Kapoor rightfully jokes that the word ‘jaanwar’ is used more on news channels than on Animal Planet!
Look at what happened to Shashi Tharoor when he tweeted about ‘cattle class’. He was publicly lambasted. And yet when he spoke at the Oxford Union about reparations, and threw in a healthy dose of humour, we loved him for it. Unfortunately, unlike Dr Tharoor, not everybody has the ability to come back with humour after being beaten down for it.
The problem now days is that people confuse humour with insult. And when they don’t have an understanding of the subject being debated, substance is replaced by volume. The entire political discourse has become confrontational and the attitude is -- you agree with my point of view or I will beat you until you submit. The irony, self awareness and edgy and pop culture references that an Obama puts on show would be crushed in our environment.
To the media, I urge you – celebrate humour, don’t sensationalise it. To those trying to please their masters – have confidence in your bosses’ abilities to fend for themselves. Not all of them and their egos are as fragile as you think they are. To the judiciary – please have a think about criminal defamation laws and section 295A. And to the politicians dying to bring some much needed humour into politics – ignore the trolls.
Papa CJ is a humourist. The views expressed are personal.