Jaspreet Singh, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, does mahaul comedy—atmospheric humour. There’s a breeziness to his excellent new special Koi Load Nahi that reminds viewers of what comedy really is when it’s stripped to its core: a fresh perspective that makes people laugh.
Sure, a lot of comedy will have lofty ambitions that deviate from (or add to) this golden principle: it may try to shock and challenge the viewer; or be contrarian and disruptive. Sometimes, inadvertently, it ends up being slapworthy. At others, it may feel politically audacious, or even play around with form. But at its heart, we all look for one essential trait in a standup comedian. Can we just hang out with this person while they talk endlessly for an hour, jumping from topic to topic?
A carefree effortlessness underpins Jaspreet Singh’s words as he remarks early on: “Jab se naukri chhodi hai, zindagi mein haraamkhoriyaan chhaa rakhi hain.” Coming up with a literal translation of this throwaway line is futile, but it loosely suggests that he’s become a casual slacker in life since turning to comedy. A bum who’s obsessed with his bed.
His matter-of-fact delivery sets up a tangential segue into an uproarious section with a battery of quips, throwaways, punchlines. For the next few minutes, Singh talks—acting increasingly more animated—about his doorbell, and the many ways it makes his life hell. How, as he spends all his time at home, sleeping through the day while his wife goes to work, he’s constantly disturbed by the bell and it’s driving him nuts.
You think it’s peaked after a minute or two, but Singh finds newer, more preposterous elements to add on, as if to signal the incredible depths of his displeasure. Grunts, expletives, catchphrases, CAPTCHAs (yes), they all come together to create repeat crescendos. The writing is masterful, and his casual embrace of self-delusion, escalating farce, and self-deprecation (the genuine kind, not the kind where it’s actually self-aggrandisement masked as self-effacement) elevates so much of Koi Load Nahi.
The special doesn’t have a clear theme tying everything together. Instead, it’s a series of vignettes that showcase Singh’s impressive ability to go down ever narrower paths and inspect a subject with meticulous attention, along with his endearingly laid-back delivery. He moves with ease from motivational speakers to an extended section on marital life through the lens of someone who spends all his time sitting on the couch. He talks about families that insult and chide one another—urging new parents to be mean to their children—and his annoyance at people celebrating their “birth months”, then switches gear to bits about the absurdity of kids’ reality TV shows or the shenanigans of godmen.
Koi Load Nahi is a reminder that standup comedy [can] also just be really funny, you know.
There’s an offhand affability, a welcoming spirit, to his style, and it allows him the freedom to jump around and even go down well-worn territory (like avocados, though the corresponding bit about asparagus more than makes up for it). His ambitions are subtle. He isn’t prone to the sins of narcissism and hubris that plague more than a few contemporary comedians. There’s no “look at me, look at how smart and clever I can be”. This isn’t to say that he lacks those qualities; rather that he has the awareness to not posture.
The use of language, too, is worth dwelling on. It has that typically North Indian sense of flippant sweariness to it. There’s a specific tonality you come to expect from North Indian comics, just as you’d expect a different cadence and style of delivery from, say, a Mumbai comic or a Bengaluru one. Singh, too, drops Hindi swear words through the set, most often the very Punjabi-fied “pancho”, with reckless abandon, often as a punchline in itself.
With that style though, there’s always the risk of lapsing into standard tropes and stereotypes in terms of material. You know, the usual Delhi/Gurgaon jokes: violence, lack of safety and regard, food habits of the North, road rage. All the hits. It’s tempting. But Singh takes great care to not spend too much time going down that rabbit hole. The occasional foray aside—like, among other bits, middle class life as a kid in Punjab—he instead takes the trouble to find new angles to navigate the culturally rich tapestry of North India.
For 45 minutes, the special soars, with very little dips. However, the final quarter hits a bit of a hurdle as, for some reason, the audio sync goes out of whack, with a slight lag in the video and the sound. This is of course a technical snag, and all criticism is aimed at Amazon. It’s weird that a company owned by a man with more money than I can mentally comprehend, and one that has so actively been involved in picking up literally anything that comes out of the Indian standup scene—even the vanity fiction shows—would be so lax about quality control. It took me out of the game somewhat, and at several points I had to look away from the screen and focus more on the sound, thus ruining some great bits of physical comedy by Singh.
But overall, this is a special that, with its self-limiting focus on the trivialities of everyday domestic life and its wandering observations and musings, finds fun ways of taking viewers along for the ride. It isn’t exactly groundbreaking in its form, but Singh uses a familiar style and adds a whole lot of his own personality to it. Increasingly, the world of comedy is becoming this minefield of excruciating political combat, with super annoying people taking up way too much space, and Koi Load Nahi is a reminder that standup comedy could also just be really funny, you know.