In the year of the coronavirus pandemic, stand-up comedy specials were few and far between. Young comics rose to the occasion, releasing material consistently across social media platforms. Some of these performances were seldom longer than a minute, and at least one of them graduated to get her own show on a streamer. Here are the (intentionally) funniest Indians of 2020.
Herself Padmashri Kangana Runout has come a long way since the end of 2019, when she first drew attention for her sketches on the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. Incredibly sharp and a good mimic, the 21-year-old comedian is now the host of the variety show Uncommon Sense on SonyLiv.
The Rajasthani comedian has zeroed in on a super subject, Narendra Modi, and he has stuck to it for the past four years. With most of the country cooped up inside their homes, and Modi himself starring in one spectacle after another, Shyam Rangeela made the most out of his muse’s love for putting on a good show.
If millennial comics found stardom through YouTube in the last decade, Generation Z finds the briskness of Instagram videos (or TikTok, for as long as it was around) more suited for virality. Among the rising stars is Kareema Barry, an expert in producing overdramatic (but also true) takes on slice-of-life moments.
Kenny Sebastian’s Netflix special The Most Interesting Person In The Room is a laugh riot. Sebastian, who is also a musician, deftly combines both skills and produces out-there and intelligent observations on classism between footwear, musical instruments, and birds. Among the fab one-liners: “Raven is a crow with an arts degree.”
In his sharp criticism of the Narendra Modi government, satirist Urvish Kothari takes no prisoners, but his chaste Hindi and the amiable uncle-next-door way of speaking lends a touch of poetry to the proceedings. He is quite unique, compared to millennial comics whose work is just as political but lacks Kothari’s wry charm.
Danish Sait seems to be able to play every Bangalorean out there and their cat. And they are all equally good at puns and PJs.
Vir Das had a busy year: two specials, one of which he shot indoors during the pandemic, and one series. His funniest stuff is in Netflix’s For India. Das’s special about all things Indian features “big things discussed like tragedies such as Jallianwala Bagh or 26/11 and also small things like biscuits”, he told Scroll.in in January.
Yashraj Mukhate’s oddball music mash-ups became extremely popular in 2020, starting with Rasode Me Kaun Tha, a social media trend that came as a welcome relief in the middle of Sushantgate. Mukhate, who has also made Instagram his base of operations, hasn’t taken a break since. What keeps him in circulation is that his work provides audio tracks for videos made by others down the line.
Anurag Minus Verma
Anurag Minus Verma’s politically tinged comedy comes with a range of animated characters, including an alien visiting India and finding it confusing, middle-class Hindutva supporter Uncle Malhotra and his cool millennial son Ronnie. The best of them all is a spectacular caricature of Yogendra Yadav.
Verma’s output also includes short videos, between 10 seconds to a few minutes each, commenting on Indian politics and cultural matters.
In a year in which it was near impossible to ignore life, death and politics, Kanan Gill’s Netflix special Yours Sincerely provided humour about perhaps the best subject out there: nothing. The premise is Gill checking if he has achieved the goals he had set for himself in a letter he wrote as a kid. From there, he wanders off to the most absurd places.