Jokes are a tricky thing. In that they’re not always funny. But if you’re standing up on a stage, lights in your eye, self-respect at your feet, the deafening silence that follows a weak punchline can be crushing. So standup comics have a bunch of safe gags to fall back on in case of emergency.
Except there’s a difference between a classic joke and a ‘comedy clam’. With some dusting and updating, the classic joke ages well, and works even several years later because it comes from a universal truth. A comedy clam is the same tired shtick you’ve heard so many times it just makes you want to burn it in the same fire as Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69.
Here are some hard-flogged jokes we think comedians can stick a fork in, because they’re so done, we don’t even think Navjot Singh Siddhu could be paid to laugh at them anymore.
“Indians love sex. How else would there be 1.3 billion of us?”
For every premise that includes sex and India in the same thread, the country’s population figure is assured a cameo. And every comedian seems to have deployed this, at one time or another, if not relentlessly, with the smugness of first discovery. Sometimes they add a “twist”: “This is the land of the Kamasutra!” with a raised eyebrow and pfffttt that says come on guys, huh, geddit? Yes, we geddit, we’re just not laughing because we’ve heard it 11 crore times already.
“Punjabis are loud/ Gujjus are stingy/ South Bombay is so posh they’ve never heard of Bhayandar/ South Indians are… at least four different types of people.”
A common bait, most used by travelling comedians. We see how hyperlocal references help you get the crowd on your side, but these generic community stereotypes are lazier than Sunday morning. Taking digs at communities is a time-honoured device, and the Indian middle class is an endless source of inspiration. But these “jokes” you think are “classics” are really so stale you could wash your hair with them for blinding shine. #thatsabeershampoojoke #pleasedontletitgotowaste #thebeerwemean #butalsothejoke #levels #aviciiwouldbeproud #stillcantbelievehesdead
Most things women.
One (and there are many) of the most painful things about standup comedy being a male-dominated industry is having to sit through dozens of really tedious jokes about women. This is how they shop/bargain, this is how they fight/argue, this is how they talk to each other. It’s eye-opening in making you realise how far men still have to go, in their heads.
Easy target, no points. Ditto for other low-hanging fruit such as Manmohan Singh and silence, Rahul Gandhi and stupidity, Arnab Goswami and volume. For the love of all that’s sacred, try harder. Please.
‘Married people gimme a CHEEEEEER!’
You know what follows? Of course you do. You’ve heard it a billion times. That’s right. Groans. You know what s/he’s gonna ask you next? That’s right. SINGLE PEOPLE GIVE ME A CHEER! You know what follows? Exactly. Married people are miserable, single people are #excitemax, marriage is the end of sex/life, yada yada. It’s all predictable, it’s all fucking tedious, it’s all gotta go.
Engineers are virgins.
Look, they might be. We get that it immediately hits home for thousands of lost kids who are pushed into their MBAs and CATs and engineering schools, and have no idea what sex is, and then they eventually flip out and become comedians or chefs or whatever… so yes, the struggle is real. But so is the fatigue that now comes with this line of attack.
“Ooooo… you went to Bangkok, HMMM?”
This one pops up most often when the comedian is dabbling in crowd work, and someone makes the mistake of saying they’ve just returned from a holiday in Thailand. You don’t even need the bang-cock/thigh-land/ladyboy/happy ending massage punchlines to show up. Just the reaction of the comic, followed by that of the audience, is a dreadful stalemate, cringeworthy in itself.