If you haven’t seen it yet, the Jaideep Verma-directed documentary I Am Offended is a good introduction to the Indian standup scene. It features engaging conversations with some of the earliest performers to take to the art, speaking at a time before the scene began growing like it was on steroids.
But the documentary is also a great watch for another reason—it features video clips of some cracking bits from some of India’s best comics, which aren’t available anywhere else online. If you’re not interested in hearing comics talk about the scene and their craft and other such matters, and want to get straight to the comedy, we’ve parsed through the film to pull out the best standup clips from it.
1. Varun Grover on Delhi extravagance
Grover rips into Delhi people for having too much money and spending it on useless things. What’s even funnier is that he doesn’t attack the usual targets, such as opulent weddings and parties—instead he goes after unnecessary features of the Delhi Metro.
2. Atul Khatri on Sindhis ordering soup
Ironically, Khatri’s bit on Sindhis soup-ordering style comes just after a clip of Grover criticising comics for doing community stereotype bits. But Khatri’s bit on Sindhis ordering portions of 1/2, 2/3 and 3/5 still works, mostly because it’s much more than a community stereotype. We’ve all done this and take it for granted that kitchen staff have intricate measuring equipment to serve out our ridiculous fractions.
3. Gursimran Khamba on his grandfather’s death
Khamba’s bit on his grandfather dying on his birthday is dark, dark humour. It also has one of our favourite lines by an Indian comic—“cake sadh raha tha akele kone mein.” A rotting birthday cake and a refrigerated dead body in the same room is the kind of image you’d expect from a great short story, in which comedy and tragedy collapse into each other.
4. Tanmay Bhat on India’s national sport
Bhat’s bit on how despite being India’s national sport, hockey is completely overshadowed by cricket, is particularly strong because of how true it rings. There’s a particularly inspired segment on which he calculates Dhoni’s earnings and compares them to the Indian hockey team’s. It’s devastating, and brilliant.
5. Nitin Gupta on Suresh Kalmadi as a terrorist
After keeping a low profile online for some years, Nitin Gupta popped up on YouTube recently to defend the government on the Rafale controversy, making his political leanings clear. Which is a pity, because in this short bit he showcases a unique sensibility that would have allowed him to be a strong anti-establishment voice. Gupta has an ability to do strong observational material that is rooted in Hindi, while many other Hindi comics tend to lean towards anecdotal work.
6. Sanjay Rajoura on his cousin’s death
Ok this is a bit of a cheat, because Rajoura doesn’t do this as standup but an anecdote to the interviewer. Rajoura talks about how he returned to his village after a cousin’s death, only to be hounded by questions about travelling abroad, while the body lies unattended. It’s as dark and funny as Khamba’s bit on his grandfather’s death, and we just had to include it in the list.
7. Rajneesh Kapoor on what pilots do during flights
This is a delightfully pointless and silly bit, in which Kapoor rants about what he believes pilots must get up to with each other once they’ve taken off and the plane is cruising. It’s enlivened by a frantic audience member who happens to be a pilot and protests loudly—Kapoor’s swift response to the heckle is equally silly and funny.
8. Neeti Palta on sleazy men
Neeti Palta takes on men who have made lecherous comments on her T-shirt graphics. Palta has an ease and charm on stage that makes even her more ordinary bits watchable and funny. Here, she’s supported by a solid premise and nifty writing.
9. Rajneesh Kapoor on currency counting machines
This is another delightful bit from Kapoor on a friend who showed him a currency counting machine. It’s deceptively simple, but contains some wonderfully poetic phrasing, like the line, “If you’re making so much money that you cannot even count your money, then you don’t need to count your money anymore.”