Somehow general entertainment channels are extremely shy of comedy serials. They stay far away from them — as if making people laugh is akin to a dangerous disease.
Try to think of any really good comedy serials, and you'll be forced to fall back on older shows such as Office Office, or even more ancient ones such as Filmi Chakkar.
It's not as if entertainment channels don't have comedy shows; they do — indeed, at one time, there were so many comedy competitions it wasn't funny (remember all those Laughter Challenges? Watching them was often a challenge).
Right now, Sony has its long-running Comedy Circus, with its long-running judge Archana Puran Singh, best known for her propensity to laugh uproariously all through the show, from the moment the contestants enter to the moment they exit. Even before the participants can open their mouths, Archana breaks into gales of laughter (though I've always wondered why she covers her mouth when she does so. Is it to appear ladylike? But you can't appear ladylike when you're laughing like someone who's just seen George Bush try to walk and chew gum at the same time). But truth be told, Archana's full-bodied, generous laughter is infinitely preferable to the generous, full-bodied tears that haunt our serials like Banquo's ghost.
But there's one channel that has bravely gone where none of its brethren have gone before - Sab, which has determinedly branded itself as a comedy channel. I don't watch it regularly, but I have tuned in off and on. I like the fact that there's a channel dedicated to comedies. But what kind of comedies is it dedicated to?
Well, for starters, there are two silent comedies (as in, there's no dialogue at all): Malegaon Ka Chintu and Gutur Gu. The former is a rather tame take-off on Mr. Bean, minus those hilarious situations in which Mr. Bean finds himself/creates for himself. And yes, the original Mr. Bean does pull some very odd faces, but the actor in Malegaon Ka Chintu rather overdoes the making-faces bit. He could make calls on his face, it's so mobile.
Gutur Gu, about a family of five getting into all manner of scrapes, has some passably funny situations but nothing that truly makes you laugh out loud (as opposed to merely grunt out loud).
The other show I've caught once in a way is something called Yeh Chanda Kanoon Hai. The title is better than the actual serial, even though it has popular hooks like a Munnabhai lookalike called (I think) Dhunnabhai, complete with his own version of Circuit.
But actually, when it comes to comedy, there's little that can beat the late night teleshopping programmes that come on almost every channel. Most of them feature white foreigners whose voices have been dubbed in Hindi, and most of them are trying to sell weight loss equipment.
And the most intriguing is a device which allegedly will make you lose your love handles. So you are treated to the startling sight of people (without love handles, since they've all lost them by now) swinging around gaily on this machine or whatever-it-is. It's another matter that they're all twisting around madly on their knees which are resting on this machine. (Sorry, I don't think I'm describing it very well; you have to see it for yourself).
They might consider hawking knee-replacement surgery as a follow-up.
My other favourite is the one where they sell evil eye charms. Here, you are treated to the even more startling sight of beams of red light emanating from the person casting his/her evil eye on some other unsuspecting person.
As you can see, I sleep very late at night.