Learning what makes Indians laugh

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Indian comedy has come a long way from the standard slapstick humor you’ll find in Bollywood movies.  Stand-up comedians and political satire shows are now gaining an audience. More people are spending their Saturday nights in comedy clubs or at comedy festivals listing to improv artists. On this week’s show we're trying to find out what makes Indians laugh. But we also ask two professional comedians what they think absolutely doesn’t work for an Indian audience. Are there still boundaries that need to be overcome in India?


Listen to this week's show here:



Papa CJ
Standup comedian Papa CJ was first introduced to the tricks of the trade in comedy clubs in London. But this Delhi boy soon struck up enough confidence abroad to perform in front of an Indian audience. Where, he claims, everyone thought he dropped his MBA course at Oxford University to become a clown.

Papa CJ has sold out stages all over Europe, North America and Asia. We caught up with him in Amsterdam when he was invited by Canadian comedian Russel Peters to perform.

Papa CJ on the American show 'Last Comic standing'



Kaneez Surka Nalwala
Born and brought up in South Africa, Kaneez fell in love with India when she first arrived about six years ago. As a female English speaking comedian it wasn’t easy for her to get noticed in the comedy scene. But that changed when she joined IMPS, a theater improv group. During one of the shows, the producer of the CNN IBN show The Week that Wasn’t, Kunal Vijaykar, saw her performing and invited her to join the cast.
The Week That Wasn’t is a political satire show that has been very successful in India. Every week the the show gives its own spin on current affairs. Recently, host Cyrus Broacha won an Indian Television Award.  

Kaneez performing a spoof about the news that legal drinking age in Mumbai is to go up.