By Elizabeth Sunny Poovathunkal
“There are three things I don’t write about,” says G Sampath. “One is Narendra Modi. After a lot of thought, I have come to the conclusion that I should have an upper limit to the chest size of the people I talk about and I have put the cap on 55 inches. Then I don’t joke about rape, because it is a very serious, sensitive, traumatic case. And for me to even insinuate or imply that it might be on the agenda of humour, I might be offending somebody already. And then I don’t talk about progressive religions like Hinduism. And I believe Islam and Christianity are also progressive.”
Needless to say the crowd roared with laughter throughout this session with G Sampath, author of How to Make Enemies and Offend people”, Aruna Nambiar, author of “Mango Cheeks, Metal Teeth”, Jane De Suza, author of “The Spy Who Lost Her Head”, Zac O’ Yeah, author of Mr. Majestic and Sidin Vadukut, the moderator of the session and author of The Dork Trilogy.
The session opened with Sidin explaining why he was so excited to visit Bangalore. The first time he visited with his parents, he had an asthma attack because of the pollen in the air. Due to this, he had been packed off to Mysore, where he caught Malaria. The second time, he visited with his girlfriend. They broke up soon after. “And so,I am very excited to be back in Bangalore, and can’t wait to figure out which part of my life will become dysfunctional tomorrow.”
But it wasn’t all fun and jokes. The session saw very serious discussions too, albeit laced with humour. And that is the trump card of humour writers. “A humour writer sees humour in everything. The world is full of comic potential for all humour writers,” said Aruna Nambiar. “It is a very instinctive and natural process for a comedy writer.”
The panel spoke about how humour can be used to address social issues, with Sampath suggesting that all humour writers should come together to form an avengers team to fight global issues. Nambiar drew the example of how “The Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women” started the pink-chaddi campaign. This was in retaliation to moral policing that took place against a group of women at a Mangalore pub and the subsequent threat issued by a Hindu orthodox right wing group. “The act reduced a very charged debate to a non-issue” said Nambiar. “In a country where we often feel hopeless and helpless, humour can be a great equalizer”.
“Humor is a clever way of attacking. It has some level of aggression in it.” added Jane De Suza.
When asked about how to decide on humour that would not offend anybody, Nambiar said “We cannot control who takes offence and who doesn’t. We should not set out to be offensive, but by finding the right comic angle, we should be able to pull it off. Like if I were to write a joke on rape, I would probably write on the take on it, and not on the act itself.”
“Offence-taking is a very lucrative industry where we don’t need any investment. All you need is to take offence. It’s a zero risk and full payoff kind of endeavor. Take offence and come on TV the next day,” he observed.
The audience asked the panel if it was easier to write jokes on oneself or one’s own community as opposed to writing jokes about another.
“All writing is somewhat autobiographic. It is much easier to make jokes on ourselves, as you need to know a subject pretty well to make jokes on it,” Jane remarked.
“I make a lot of fun of the cultures I know, because its very difficult to make fun of the cultures I don’t know, except in very broad clichéd terms. We should be able to pick out the little nuances of it.” said Sidin.
“I think that one role that humour plays is like a mirror. We are watching ourselves and picking out what we like and don’t like in ourselves”, said Zac O’ Yeah. It is far easier to be self deprecating, because we know ourselves and our people much better. People can see the flaws in themselves.
The session was very engaging and had the crowd sitting up to catch every word from the panelists. It was filled with one-liners and humour that only a panel of such talent could pull off. And by just writing about it, I am sorry to say, I haven’t been able to capture it in full effect.
As the session drew to a close, Sidin drew a comparison of the panel to the Kingfisher Airlines ad saying, “We have two handsome men, two beautiful women, and a weird guy in a cap (Zac o’ Yeah), but we make no money. So please, buy our books.”