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Make them laugh in 140 characters

If you're on twitter, chances are that you've got your timeline categorised into various sub heads — political, news portals, the self obsessed lot, the explicit ones, the Chinese and Greek proverb copier, celebrities and, among others, the funny ones.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2010 00:45 IST
Isha Manchanda

If you're on twitter, chances are that you've got your timeline categorised into various sub heads — political, news portals, the self obsessed lot, the explicit ones, the Chinese and Greek proverb copier, celebrities and, among others, the funny ones.

Indian comics on twitter have exploited every socio-political opportunity to poke fun at authorities and audiences alike. Take the Commonwealth Games, for example. The opening ceremony saw non stop tweeting of snide commentary about Kalmadi's speech, Manmohan Singh and Pratibha Patil's lack of expressions and Sheila Dikshit's senility at suggesting that there have been no power cuts in Delhi in the last two years. The Ayodhya Verdict, too, led to much inspired commentation — quoting Rohan Joshi (@MojoRojo), "There is only one way to make everybody forget about the Babri Masjid; Make repairing it the BMC's job".

Another hot topic is Arnab Goswami. Rakesh Jhunjhunwaala, with over 14 thousand followers, once tweeted "Arnab Goswami has never finished a sentence his whole life because everytime he starts to speak he ends up interrupting himself." No subject is taboo, no issue too sacrosanct for these comics, and they will use all ammunition, from ND Tiwari to Rakhi Sawant, to tickle your funny bone (no pun intended).

A close look at 'favourited tweets' gives you a clear idea about how comics are winning the popularity contest we lovingly refer to as Twitter. A popular name among the twitterati is Gursimran Khamba — known to his followers as @gkhamba. When Khamba started tweeting, he had a modest following of 150 people, mostly people he knew personally. Today, over six thousand people are regularly updated on his irreverent musings on everything topical and a majority of them are retweeted by hundreds. "I've always had a talent for making snide remarks about everything. In person, people tend to get offended pretty often by those, but apparently when you do the same to celebrities, it's funny," says Khamba.

Once on Twitter, Khamba started writing for popular spoof website Faking News. This, he says, is what initially increased his visibility. "Twitter makes it easy to be politically incorrect — sure you lose a few followers every time you touch a taboo topic like politics or religion, but you have to remember that with each unfollow you're separating the wheat from the chaff," he points out.

Writer and stand up comic Rohan Joshi (@mojorojo), with five thousand followers, thinks twitter, "is like an online soapbox, you can say exactly what you want and you'll end up attracting like minded people." Wannabe space cowboy, TV professional and suspected Blackberry Boy from the popular Vodafone Ad, Dharmesh Gandhi points out how "people think I'm funny when I'm just talking about my day-to-day experiences. Sadly, they are full of misery for me. But as they say, 'Everything is funny till it happens to you'."

Saad Akhtar, site architecture specialist at Naukri.com by day and maker of FlyYouFools comic by night (with close to 7,000 followers on twitter), agrees with his fellow comics, asserting that "the quality of comedy depends greatly on the medium and the lack of censorship on twitter makes it an ideal breeding ground for wit and sarcasm." Rohan Roushan, ex-TV journalist and now Pagal Patrakar of the Faking News fame, thinks that the 140 character constraints have pushed people to become sharper, more articulate and, therefore, wittier.

Is there, however, a flipside to winning the race to be most liked — the pressure to keep up with your follower's expectations, perhaps? Twitter is, after all, a strangely personal medium where "relationships" can only be sustained with conversations and regular interactions — this is how you grow your follower base and how you sustain it. "If I don't feel like making jokes one day, or decide to comment on things in a not-so-obviously-funny manner, suddenly followers will tell me I'm having an off day or that I've lost the funny somewhere," Khamba adds.

The social networking site might just have changed the face of comedy, for professionals and amateurs alike. Even though most of the content might be too politically incorrect and too edgy to be reproduced in print, twitter is probably making people more open to comic outrage.