Queens of comedy: Breaking stereotypes on the humor circuit

Mallika Dua
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By Shivani Chaskar

New Delhi–From Johnny Lever’s “Johny Aala Re”, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Shekhar Suman judging “Laughter Challenge” to the popular “Comedy Nights with Kapil” — comedy in India, like most other fields, has largely been male dominated. But women are slowly taking centrestage, say content makers and comedians.

Raju Shrivastava, Johnny Lever, Sunil Grover, Papa CJ, Tanmay Bhatt, Sorabh Pant and Jivesh Ahluwalia are some of the men who immediately come to mind in any conversation about India’s comedy scene.

In an era when there’s a spike in the number of televised comedy shows and stand-up events, apart from the emergence of various web platforms to push the genre, female comedians like Bharti Singh, Radhika Vaz, Mallika Dua, Aditi Mittal, Jamie Lever, Kaneez Surka and Neeti Palta have come into their own.

Yet, the ratio of men and women comedians remains “unjustified”, says Zulfia Waris, Business Head – Female and Family Entertainment Products, Discovery Communications India.

Mallika Dua

The network is soon coming up with “Queens of Comedy”, to provide a national platform to comediennes and to “change the way how women are perceived on India’s comedy circuit”, Waris said.

“Female comedians have been in the circuit for quite some time and I think they will continue to be there because of their humour. (But) the ratio of men to women in the comedy industry is completely unjustified.

“With ‘Queens of Comedy’, we are giving women a platform to showcase their hidden talent. I think the idea is to provide equal opportunities to female stand-up comedians,” added Waris about the show, which will air on Discovery-owned TLC channel from September 23.

The breakthrough show will be judged by actress Richa Chadha, comedian Rohan Joshi and Kaneez Surka.

Surka, who doesn’t quite like the term “female comedian”, told IANS: “Being a woman, I do have an issue being labelled as a female comedian, because sometimes I feel it diminishes what I am doing or what I have done. Hence, I don’t really like that tagline of being a female comedian.

“However, I do feel that it is important for the women to open up and come to the forefront on various comedy platforms.”

The scenario is same across the globe, says Neeti Palta. “The same ratio exists across the globe, not just in India. But as comedy is getting more popular and the audience is becoming more accepting, more ladies are stepping up,” Palta said, adding: “I get paid more than a lot of male comics. The pay structure is based more on the experience of the comic than their gender.”

Yet, there seem to be fewer opportunities for women in this arena. But Waris says she sees a ray of hope.

“The scenario is definitely changing. Premium channels don’t have comedy content at all. It’s largely general entertainment channels that consider comedy shows. Additionally, I do agree with the fact that the content is currently male-centric; however, this might not be the case in the future. (IANS)


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