“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” – Erma Bombeck.
So, the clock strikes 10 pm and we hurriedly tune into the channel, Colors, to participate in yet another laughter riot. Kapil welcomes us to his show, Comedy Nights with Kapil while the live orchestra plays that patent piece of music and the live audience headed by none other than Navjot Singh Sidhu cheers and applauds. No sooner than the show starts its laughter ride that we are greeted with a family lead by Bittu Sharma, the man of the house, his dadi (grandma), bua (aunt), Manju, his wife and their domestic help, Raju. This typical Indian household also has neighbors, Gutthi and Palak, a plump woman, who make magnanimous contributions to ensure that our stomachs hurt with incessant laughter. However, the jokes that are cracked in this household tend to become slightly crass as the humor gets lost somewhere in the shades of blatant sexism.
What is it that has us all rolling on the floor, laughing, then? What are the hilarious jokes on? Well, for a regular viewer of this impeccable show, the answer is rather too simple. Comedy seems to revolve around the inebriated grandmother, who certainly believes that age just a number. She finds younger men delectable, unable to stop coveting them. More often than not, the tomfoolery is on the aunt, one who is unmarried. She refuses to be addressed as the aunt, as she believes that she stopped aging since she was a 22-year-old lady. Marriage is the ultimate goal of her life, the be-all-and-end-all of her existence. Furthermore, the joke is on the wife and her poor family which is, often on, the subject of ridicule. Her full lips are always jeered at without fail. And, if all these were not enough for us, the viewers, to erupt into sumptuous laughter, the domestic help is also an important topic of buffoonery. The fat girl though engages in witty banter with the man of the house, is mocked at for her robust figure and paralleled with inanimate commodities such as a bull-dozer. All these women at whom we laugh most insensitively, perhaps, are caricatures of real life women who battle with scorn on a regular basis.
This is not to downplay the credibility of the actors, though. They are brilliant in their portrayals, and Kapil Sharma’s comic timing is one that is to watch out for. Anybody who is watching a skit on that show cannot help but laugh. As Charles Dickens puts it, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor,” this show is a truckload of amusement. The fact that we all find this rather patriarchal family, so funny, speaks volumes about our conditioning. While anybody, whether too slim or too fat, too poor or too pouty is the subject of derision, the man of the house can flirt with any woman he deems fit. Most of the comedy is made on those husbands in the audience who are, basically, bachelors at heart. Their wives are scoffed at for various reasons but the most prominent one of them all is always the fact that they are women. While laughter is said to be the best medicine, constantly poking “fun” at women, for being women, is tad bit too sexist.
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