On 11 December 2019, Kunal Rao put out a standup clip about Taylor Swift’s songs and lyrics on his YouTube channel asking his audience, “Have you guys noticed how every single Taylor Swift song sounds like a WhatsApp message to her ex?” The live audience laughed out loud, but the pop singer’s online army was not amused.
The five-minute bit is largely a commentary on how the poetry is lost in this generation; that song lyrics today have become basic AF. To make his point, he also quotes from “angrezi Javed Akhtar” Jim Morrison’s song Break On Through (To the Other Side) and then compares that to lines from Hillary Duff’s Play with Fire (“I feel like a 4th standard student would write a better poem than this”) and Carley Rae Jepson’s I Really Like You (how many “really’s” does it take before you go from ‘I like you’ to ‘I love you’?”).
How many breakup songs can she write?!
Frenzied Taylor Swift stans, proudly proclaimed Swifties, came at Rao with dragonglass daggers, caps lock and several thousand exclamation marks. His comments section was crowded with comments from handles like taylena_forever, im_a_swiftie_bitch, passmeanotetaylor, tayrealm, tswiftlover… you get the drift.
A Twitter user even wrote an email to Jeff Bezos (!) with the subject line “Dear Jeff; Regarding Kunal Rao” asking him to remove Rao’s 2019 comedy special Done from Amazon Prime Video. His account was also reported enough times for Twitter to block it under “violating our rules against abuse and harassment” for a 2010 tweet (now deleted) of his that read “Can someone please kill Taylor Swift?”
Swift’s fans were upset because they thought Rao was insulting their favourite artist, when “I was just making a funny observation about her lyrics.”
They won’t readily admit it, but if you’ve ever been around a comedian when she/he puts their work out online, you know that all they do for the rest of the day is refresh the page and stare at their phones to see how it’s being received. We can only imagine Rao’s excitement when the cacophony of notifications began. Just not for reasons he could’ve imagined.
It’s the most traction he’s ever got on any post ever. “On average [on Instagram] I get about 20 comments,” he explains. “This one had 700+ comments, all basically hate comments towards me (and them talking between themselves). On YouTube, the clip has only 2,500 views, but there were 650 dislikes!” he laughs, in mild disbelief. “I was getting so much hate that I actually disabled comments on my YouTube video.”
How did the video reach so many fans in the first place? Hashtags. “I used the regular hashtags that go out with my posts, and then I added #Swifties because I thought it would be fun. A friend suggested it, to whom I am now eternally hateful.”
In an unofficial statement to Dead Ant, Rao said: “I have nothing against Taylor Swift. In fact, I even like her songs. Some songs.”