2020 was the year that content creators and comedians went head to head on the digital stage, except only one of these groups was actually prepared for battle. As comedians adapted reluctantly to the new normal, the creator community on Instagram and YouTube kicked into top gear.
Living through what has felt like one giant, unending Zoom call with no real option to hang up, we let go of ridiculous ideas like getting a grip on our screen time. Between refreshing Covid-19 stats and looking for virus updates, downloading meditation apps and panic tweeting, we found moments of unexpected relief in digital content that was churned out at a maddening pace this year.
And while there’s nothing normal about about how much content we’ve consumed the past few months, what stood out was how fast we built online communities, held together by the absolutely outstanding nonsense that went viral. Besides the usual suspects—Kusha Kapila, Dolly Singh, Srishti Dixit, Krutika (Mermaid Scales), who kept us entertained the entire time—here are five others who cannon-balled to internet fame during the pandemic.
1. Yashraj Mukhate
On 19 August 2020, engineer turned music producer and composer had 6.8k subscribers on YouTube. Within the next 10 days, his subscribers jumped to a million. WTF happened? Kokilaben. Mukhate took a dialogue from the TV soap Saath Nibhaana Saathiya and laid beats over it, turning it into a catchy AF earworm of a remix that went viral within hours of his release.
Suddenly, everyone was shouting RASODE MEIN KAUN THA?! into the internet, trending the hashtag everywhere, catching the attention of both the makers and cast of the show. In a twist that is perhaps entirely on theme with 2020, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra even used the Kokilaben rap on live TV to mock the Congress, quoting lines from the clip with weird conviction.
Mukhate has since delivered several dozen hits with his ‘meme songs’ (new genre alert!), including Zakurrr (feat. Zakir Khan), Chale Gaye (Himesh Reshammiya), Biggini Shoot, Bulla, and Tommy. He is now sitting tight on 3.5 million subscribers.
2. Ruhee Dosani
Ruhee Dosani is a “Punjab di kudi, now in foreign” who makes snappy dance and dialogue-based reels with her friends. But she really caught everyone’s attention just two weeks ago when she picked up Yashraj Mukhate’s Tommy, and the reel that followed hit 20 million plays.
3. Danish Sait
Danish Sait has been doing his thing for several years now—as an RJ, a TV host, an actor, improv artist—but this year he was also the spokesperson for plenty of our anxieties. He turned every hot topic into a quick sketch, reacting to the news of the day through imagined conversations between multiple characters, including excited alcoholics and Coronavirus conspiracy theorists. Through this, he was able to effectively capture the pandemic experience of those in circles of privilege, subtly laying the smackdown on those who probably deserve it.
4. Chef Thomas Zacharias
Many chefs came to the amateur cook’s rescue during lockdown (and THANK GODS FOR THEM) sharing quick recipes and kitchen hacks, but 34-year-old Thomas Zacharias (aka Chef TZac) makes this list for also being flat-out hilarious. Chef Partner at The Bombay Canteen (Mumbai), he started cooking on IGTV, for everyone to follow along. While he’s talking, there’s also self-deprecatory running commentary in text to go along. He never gives you the exact measures for the ingredients, so you really have to get into the whole “swaad anusaar” thing, but we made the Bihari Eggplant Chokha and Parsi Dhansak, and they were both banging.
5. Sakshi Shivdasani
A contestant on MTV India’s reality show Supermodel of the Year early this year, Sakshi Shivdasani started creating content for social media after her time on the show wrapped. She boomed on Reels as we leaned into our socially distanced lives with her speedy 15-second takes on everyday life with hilarious inner dialogues on everything from parents and dating to fumbling with fashion and makeup.