Stand-up com­edy is a rel­a­tive nov­elty in In­dia, but it has caught on rapidly thanks to YouTube’s abil­ity to dodge the cen­sors, writes Penny Durham

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Feature -

The Daily Show cally in In­dia,” Verma says in one, “we are more con­cerned about women en­ter­ing tem­ples with­out per­mis­sion than about men en­ter­ing women with­out per­mis­sion.” It’s not the kind of thing you could say on tele­vi­sion.

Verma says YouTube has been hugely im­por­tant in In­dia as a way of by­pass­ing the cen­sors and reach­ing a wide au­di­ence. “Within two to 2½ years of be­ing on YouTube we saw a mas­sive dif­fer­ence in our fol­low­ing,” he says. “Back in 2012-13 we were strug­gling to get 150-200 peo­ple for a gig. Since we have been on YouTube, we’re get­ting 800-1000 in any city.”

The Mum­bai-based 27-year-old, who stud­ied mar­ket­ing and worked in ad­ver­tis­ing and as a TV scriptwriter, joined the em­bry­onic com­edy scene in 2010-11 and even­tu­ally went full-time. He and friends Sorabh Pant, Ku­nal Rao and Sahil Shah be­gan per­form­ing live shows to­gether. “East In­dia Com­edy” is a sly ref­er­ence to the in­tro­duced na­ture of their style of com­edy.

“We had to give our­selves a name, so we came up with this hor­ri­ble pun on the East In­dia Com­pany: ‘We will im­port laugh­ter into In­dia and colonise the coun­try with our jokes!’ ” he says. Other comics joined the group, they started putting videos on YouTube, and they now have writ­ers, edi­tors and a pro­duc­tion team.

The clear­est ex­am­ple of their in­flu­ence is a video Verma made about stu­dent sui­cide. Com­pe­ti­tion for spots in a good med­i­cal or en­gi­neer­ing col­lege forces many stu­dents into exam-prep boot­camp, where the pres­sure over­whelms an alarm­ing num­ber of them. The video is jokey — “The only in­sti­tu­tion where

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