While the comedy industry in India took seed in Mumbai, and remains largely centred in the city, the last few years has seen a wave of new comedians take to the stage in north India, with the Canvas Laugh Club in Gurgaon serving as a kind of epicenter for the scene. And while most Mumbai comedians perform in English or a recognisably urban Hinglish, these new comedians perform largely in Hindi, often with heavy influences of Haryanvi, Punjabi or regional dialects of Hindi. Rather than try and overcome their discomfort with English, these comedians embrace it, and mine the awkwardness for their comedy. As the comments sections of their YouTube videos makes clear, this has won them fans who identify deeply with their material.
1. Pratyush Chaubey
Chaubey’s material typically comprises observations about Delhi life delivered in a charmingly lowkey style and steeped in self-deprecation. He is quickly gaining a following for his insights, particularly into the lives and minds of native Hindi speakers who struggle with the English language and cosmopolitan city culture.
2. Gaurav Gupta
Gaurav Gupta announces on stage that he’s a baniya, the kind of non-PC caste talk that would make many liberals flinch. But caste is never far from the surface in India, and Gupta has his fans firmly on his side as he takes them through material that, like Chaubey’s, deals with Delhi life and struggles with English and “hip” city culture. His skill as a performer shines through in this video, particularly in a spot-on medley of sounds from east Delhi streets that interrupt a young man trying to conduct a job interview over the phone.
3. Parvinder Singh
Singh is an instantly likeable performer, who speaks in quickfire, Punjabi-accented Hindi. He has whiplash timing—watch him (at 00.33) interrupt his own impression of a DJ asking “Punjabis in the house—” with an indignant “Humne kisi ka kya bigada hai?” (What wrong did we do anyone?). He also has great acting chops, as evident at 01.25, when, without knowing what a teetotaler is, he responds to a DJ asking if Singh can ever be a good one.
4. Vijay Yadav
Much of Yadav’s comedy stems from his Haryanvi origins. He wears the culture’s aggression on his sleeve, but plays it down in his onstage persona so that he comes across as affable even as he talks of beatings and bullying.
5. Mayank Pandey
Pandey combines skilled observations and simple anecdotes with a wry, gently paced delivery. His YouTube videos so far haven’t centred around his alienation from the English language, but rather tackle more general subjects with an easy wit.