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Trust me, I’m a humour writer

india Updated: Feb 07, 2010 01:31 IST
Ashish Shakya
Ashish Shakya
Hindustan Times
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I often get interesting e-mails from readers, such as this one Nigerian who has promised to send me a million dollars.

Also, quite a few readers who aspire to write humour have asked me about what the profession entails.

So today, I’m going to expound upon the funny business, risking my beer time as I do so.

To understand humour, one must look at its origins that date back to the Stone Age, when an Early Man (let’s call him Advaniji) was trying to strike two rocks together, since there was nothing else to do on a Saturday night.

After a few tries, he paved the way for the advancement of the human race by — you guessed it — accidentally setting his crotch on fire, thus causing his friends to perform the Stone Age version of “ROTFLMAO!!” (This subtle comedic device still forms the basis of most Priyadarshan movies.)

People think that coming up with jokes is easy, and all that one needs to do to be funny is to fit the phrases ‘Silicone Valley’ and ‘Rakhi Sawant’ into the same sentence.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, because sometimes Rakhi Sawant isn’t in the news, so you have to make do with phrases like ‘Rahul Mahajan’ and ‘possible sex offender’ instead.

In my case, work begins early in the morning. (Ok, so it may not be early morning in our time zone, but still.) The first step is to open the newspaper, because a humour writer needs to be aware of all current affairs, be they sports, entertainment, politics or economics. So naturally, the first section I turn to is the Sex Expert. (Comedy gold, second only to Amar Singh.)

I’m a freelancer, which means I get to work from home. This is great, because the solitude allows me, as a meticulous wordsmith, to freely emit bodily noises without being apologetic. Or to quote the late Erich Segal, “Working from home means never having to say you're sorry.”

By now, you’re thinking, “Hey, this humour writing sounds easy. In fact, I think I’ll quit my respectable but boring job right now and become a humour writer.”

Let me stop you right there, before you plant animal pornography on your idiot manager’s computer and phone in a tip to HR on your way out.

You see, humour writing isn’t all fun and games, especially in India. Sure, Indians do have a wicked sense of humour, as evidenced by the fact that the latest “tribute” to India — the Phir Mile Sur video — features Deepika Padukone, whose only talent, as far as I can tell, is being taller than all three Khans combined.

But a certain kind of humour (i.e. the kind you really want to do) can get you killed. For example, it would be terribly risky to crack a joke like, “A top Sena leader walks into a bar and (Rest of the joke edited in the interest of keeping our office fire-free — Ed.)

With that, I think I’ve presented a balanced picture of the profession. This column is forever open to donations, just like Pakistan, so if you’ve found it useful, please make your cheques out to ‘The Beer Fund for Underpaid Humour Writers.’ (We accept payments in kind as well.)

Ashish Shakya co-writes the satire show, The Week That Wasn’t. Sometimes he’s even sober while doing so.