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A new public sphere? English-language stand-up comedy in India

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Abstract

The genre of English-language stand-up comedy is increasingly becoming popular in India’s metropolitan cities. This study uses the concept of the public sphere to examine YouTube videos of a prominent Indian live comedian, Daniel Fernandes. The analysis shows that Fernandes’ verbal humor is based on several performative techniques such as linguistic code-switching, calculative pauses, and juxtaposition of incongruous things. The study, furthermore, demonstrates that English-language stand-up comedy extends the bourgeois public sphere by a satirical commentary on political, social, and cultural issues in contemporary India as well as internationally. The article also argues that the public sphere exemplified by the genre of English-language live comedy is not entirely new, but an advancement of the classical public sphere.

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... Realizing the ability of Seriously Frivolous: A Narrative Review of the Global Effects of Political Humour on Political Sophistication ShodhKosh: Journal of Visual and Performing Arts 532 political comedy to serve as a free space for democratic discussions, some researchers conceptualize these platforms as a modern public sphere. Paul (2017) in his study "A New Public Sphere? English-Language Stand-Up Comedy in India" discusses the contribution of English-language stand-up comedy as a modern public sphere where opinions about social, political, and cultural aspects of local, national, and international issues are shared and further given feedback in the form of applause, silence (in case of live performance), likes and subscriptions and further discussed and debated in the comment section. ...
... While Asian countries are beginning to catch up with the trend, the scholarship pertaining to the power of political humour, especially the ones disseminated by the new media can still be considered to be in a nascent phase. In India, in the last two decades, the studies about political satire are usually conceptual in nature like the works of Punathambekar (2015), Kumar (2015), and Paul (2017) in which Kulkarni (2017) adds to the occasional empirical studies on the subject. The effects discussed in these researches are predominantly at the cognitive level that is only useful in the development of a working hypothesis. ...
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A politically conversant and sophisticated public is a major requisite for the development and functioning of a sound democracy. However, politics being an intricate subject doesn’t usually catch a fancy of an average man. This poses the demanding challenge of simplifying political discourse and making it more appealing to the larger population. Studies show that political comedy can qualify as one of its competent solutions due to the inherent power of humour to not just amuse but also facilitate attention-grabbing, information retention, and recall Fitzpatrick (2010). Also, the application of humour in serious matters like politics makes it less subject to scrutiny Feldman & Young (2008) further motivating people to express themselves freely without being intimidated by the fear of criticism. The realization of these advantages of political comedy led to an influx in research and discussions around the implications of the same. Hence, in light of the rising popularity of various formats of political humour in contemporary times, the present paper employs the technique of narrative literature review to identify various approaches through which the effects of political humour have been studied so far and explores whether or not it impacts the current political landscape. The investigation of the secondary sources yields that the recent scholarship on political humour effects is mostly centered around television satirical shows and myriad of its formats on the internet. The paper is arranged according to five central themes found by the careful examination of the available literature, which are; a) political humour as a mediator of political knowledge, b) implications on political efficacy and cynicism, c) political humour and political participation/ engagement, d) persuasive impacts of political humour, and e) factors influencing the effects of political humour.
... In India, comedians themselves have hailed the stand-up comedy industry as "one of the most progressive" entertainment fields (Film Companion, 2017). As Subin Paul (2017) notes, Indian stand-up comedy and its potential to critique social structures and inequalities becomes particularly important because freedom of speech, particularly of journalists, is being heavily curtailed in India owing to the political climate. However, the comedy industry is not as "intersectional" as it is purported to be because of the existing structural barriers in the industry (Sahoo & Das, 2018). ...
... Very few academic studies have been conducted on stand-up comedy in India, with Paul (2017) and Sahoo and Das (2018) some of the few to reflect on the topic. Even within the existing studies the articulation of caste 1 locations by Indian comedians or the lack of it has not been sufficiently explored thus far. ...
... 132). These language-specific sensibilities sometimes run counter to dominant journalistic notions, which are largely hinged on rationality that was formed in Europe during the Enlightenment and on the Habermasian ideal of the public sphere (Paul, 2017;Paul and Alex, 2022). The constitution of transregional journalistic fields therefore needs to be scrutinized, as Udupa explained in the context of the Indian language press: "The abstraction of news publics solely as rational-critical publics effaces the distinct histories of colonial encounter, postcolonial developmentalism and linguistically shaped and caste-inflected debates around modernity, and notions of journalism in particular," adding that, "Equally, to conceive of the news media as embracing the already-existing rational choices of the public in a pure act of representation will obscure the multifarious social and cultural conditions within which print-mediated subjects get constituted" (Udupa,p. ...
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Fernandes, D. 2014e. "Daniel Fernandes Quit Advertising to Take Up Comedy." The Talking Desk. https://thetalkingdesk.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/daniel-fernandes-quit-advertising-to-take-upcomedy/.
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