Humour 101

Rohan JoshiThis week on my favourite show, Man vs Sense, the Indian government (‘Man’) took on the exodus of thousands of North-Eastern citizens back to their homes. The government’s response to the exodus, and the rumours causing them, was typically entertaining; it throttled SMS counts, and then tried to kill the Internet. I refer to the banning of ‘parody accounts’, a bunch of accounts that mocked the Prime Minister’s official Twitter account, which is @PMOIndia. There are several impostors, with names like PM0India, PM0_India and iPoonamPandey. The first two make jokes, but the third one is the most realistic, because it is forever making promises to the hungry common man that it never keeps.

This blocking sparked off a furious debate on censorship, and the Internet reacted in the only way it knows; it branded the UPA government the devil, and denounced it as the worst thing to have happened to the universe since Yanni. The UPA defended itself by suggesting that some of the Twitter accounts in question were dangerous because they had ‘communal overtones’. This is not entirely false; some of those accounts say some pretty daft things (‘Ek Tha Tiger was really good’), but if we’re clamping down on stuff that spreads communal violence, I can think of a few things that we should ban before Twitter accounts; like the UPA, and the BJP, and every Indian election campaign ever.

Baba Ramdev
Learning to LAUGH: Irony inspires disbelief — for instance, when the government wants Baba Ramdev to be checked for black money. That’s so ironic it could set off metal detectors

More offensive to me personally is the fact that the government forgot one very important thing about those Twitter accounts, especially the ones that parody the PMO; they parody the PMO. Most blocked accounts state explicitly that they are parody accounts. And Twitter, as a rule, shuts down any fake accounts if their profile or name doesn’t spell out their parody-status. Which leads me to ask a question; what if the government doesn’t know what a parody is? What if the government doesn’t even know what humour is? I am a humourist of some merit (MBA in Humour Studies, IIPM Kottayam) and Indian culture lists humour as one of the navarasas (the nine primal responses). So, I have prepared a crash course in the different forms of humour for our government to understand and follow.

Wit: A form of humour that relies on intellectual wordplay, and the ability to make funny remarks. Like if there’s a terrorist attack, and RR Patil says “Bade shehron mein aise choti choti baate hoti hai” he is exercising wit, because of his play on the words ‘choti baate’, which you think refers to the attack, but actually refers to the accident in which his foot enters his mouth and stays there. Wit works best when it is like a farm in Maharashtra i.e. dry.

Sarcasm: The lowest form of wit. A sharp statement that actually implies the opposite of what you said. For example “I LOVE our government” or “Isn’t Kapil Sibal AMAZING?” or “Justice will be served.”

Irony: A form of humour in which events play out in a way that is often opposed to the way they should play out. It often inspires disbelief. For example, when the government wants Baba Ramdev to be checked for black money. That’s so ironic it could set off metal detectors.

Parody: Also called a ‘spoof’, it is a purposely poor imitation of an actual work or process, whose horridness trivialises the original actual work. Popular examples of Indian parody-acts include Devang Patel, Pratibha Patil, and the UPA Government.

Improvisational Comedy: A form of comedy where everything is made up as you go along, on the spot, with no real plan or purpose. For example, Kiran Bedi.

Cringe Comedy: A form of comedy based heavily on embarrassment, brought forth by inappropriate words or actions. For further information, google Digvijay Singh.

Prop Comedy: A form of comedy that relies on the use of useless everyday props in humorous ways. Translated loosely into the Bengali vernacular as Pranab Mukherjee.

There. Easy enough. Class dismissed.

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on 

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