Masoom Rajwani Tells Us All About His Latest Hour & The Hurdles of Doing Political Comedy

By Shantanu Sanzgiri 14 June 2024 5 mins read

Masoom Rajwani has been touring with his latest show 'Taboo Talk' and is all set to close out the first leg in Mumbai this month. He tells us all about the show, dealing with political backlash and using social media as an ad space.

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Masoom Rajwani started his comedy journey in January 2016. The comedian has been a regular on the Mumbai-comedy circuit ever since and is largely famous for the number of times he goes up on stage in one night. Back when we spoke with him for our Next Big Thing interview, Rajwani’s record stood at 8 performances in a single day. He hasn’t bested that, but he did go on to set another record (of sorts).

In the nine years that he’s been active, Rajwani never released a single video. Forget that, he didn’t even have an Instagram post on his feed. But all of that changed earlier this year when the comedian released a set of videos on YouTube and has been posting regularly on Instagram to promote his shows. Lately, he’s been touring with his solo Taboo Talk. The comedian is going to close out the first leg of his tour with two shows in Mumbai—scheduled for 17 and 29 June—after which he’s going to take a small break before getting back on the road in mid-July. We spoke with Rajwani about his latest hour, how life has changed since he surfaced on the internet and how he deals with the backlash that comes with doing political comedy.

What’s the show about?

So, the second half of the show is political. The first half of the show is largely about me which eventually transitions into why I talk about politics.

How long did you take to write this material?

Oh, nine years! (Laughs) I’ve been working on my craft since then. But if you look at just the jokes, the oldest one is from 2018.

Do you have any plans of recording the show?

I can’t really release the entire hour online because of the material in the second half. However, I have already done one recording. I might do one more after my second tour is done. That will happen around end of September, mid-October. And I would like to record it in the same way I did my previous set of videos. But that will take some time.

Why are you calling the show ‘Taboo Talk’?

Most of the things I say on stage cannot be said in a social setting without setting the context that these are just jokes. If I’m not in a comedy club, I cannot say these things in public. Also, the easiest way to communicate that reckless things will be said in the next one-and-a-half hours was to use these two words.

On a scale of 1-WTFAMIDOING, how nervous are you?

It’s mostly at wtfamidoing. (Laughs) It’s mainly because between any two shows I come up with something while doing mics around the city or while I’m touring. Like, if I’m in Delhi for my solo show, that doesn’t mean I just perform that one hour and come back. I stay back for like 15 days and do mics around the city. I like doing open mics in different cities because you get to learn so much. That’s why between any two shows, I always have a new chunk that I want to try and that’s where the nervousness comes from.

Since you’re doing political material, have you faced any backlash at the shows you’ve done so far?

I have. And surprisingly, it hasn’t happened up North but in our very liberal city of Mumbai. In the last 13 days, three people have gotten angry at me mid-show. And this has happened at premium comedy clubs where I could have almost been beaten up. It wasn’t necessarily political. It’s just that people with those leanings have this sense of pride now.

You don’t even need to do a political joke for them to heckle you or get offended. They have this confidence in their belief and if you oppose them, there will be a verbal or physical altercation. Woh uss chaudh mein hi ghoomte hai ki tum humare saath disagree karoge toh hum badtameezee karenge. Luckily, the people who come to see my solo shows don’t have those political leanings. I’m not saying it’s some top-tier audience that I have curated but I’m just lucky that they haven’t come so far.

How do you navigate these hurdles?

Honestly, I’ve gotten in and out of trouble enough number of times for me to know what I can and cannot say on stage. Legally, I know what I can joke about. But when it crosses over into the moral territory, there is no right or wrong over there. If you disagree with someone, there is very little you can do to change their mind and vice versa. For example, I know that I cannot legally joke about religion. But if I’m questioning your practices and how you go about your beliefs, there is no arbitrator to solve this discussion. In that case, it depends on what their stand is, how many people are standing in my support and how violent or aggressive that person is.

It usually ends with us agreeing to disagree, where I apologise for how they feel but not for what I said. But agar koi aisa aa hi gaya maarne, toh main bahut phattu hoon. Main sorry bol dunga. (Laughs) When I leave my house, I am thinking that I want to try out these three lines. Not about whether I’ll be beaten up by someone. And it takes a toll on the people close to me as well. So now I also have to gauge what are the consequences that my inner circle will face because I’m pursuing my this art form.

You’ve been doing comedy for almost a decade but only released your first set of videos this year. What was the reason behind the wait?

I just didn’t want to record in the conventional way. I was sure that I didn’t want my video to look the way everyone else’s looks. I’m not commenting on how other people record or how their material looks but I was looking at my taping as an advertisement of what I do and who I am. Based on what you show, you want people to buy tickets, right? So, the advertisement of Masoom Rajwani can’t look like every other ad on YouTube. And I also look at it like, you aren’t just putting your jokes out there.

It’s also about how you present yourself. That also adds to what we call “art”. The way it’s shot, the way it looks, it matters a lot according to me. If this is going to be available on the internet forever, I would like it to look like I put effort into it. That effort doesn’t just include hitting the open mics and writing jokes. I also thought through other things and I had a certain vision in mind. But I never had the resources to execute it till a friend stepped in and helped me with all the other work including direction.

Has the increased visibility on social media helped in selling more tickets?

I would say that enough people have started showing up where I don’t have to cancel my shows. My aim was to keep doing this hour and improve at what I want to say and that goal is being achieved. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have a much larger audience than expected. But largely, shows have more or less stopped getting cancelled if I do my promotions correctly.

I also feel that it’s what you do with the medium. If you just want to put stuff out there and make things that you don’t enjoy, you’ll end up hating it. That’s precisely why I don’t create specific content for Instagram. I only share stuff that I’ve recorded for YouTube. I look at it as another way of distributing my content and reaching out to more people. I know how to write jokes and tell them so that’s what I do.

You can get your tickets for Taboo Talks in Mumbai here.


Shantanu Sanzgiri


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