Nothing made any sense in 2021. In a year when we desperately needed things to snap back into some sort of normalcy, feel familiar again, the world was all LOL, NOPE. Comedy had a tough time for obvious reasons, but it also had some hilariously bonkers moments. Here’s a healthy mix. Tell us (as you always do *eye roll*) if we missed anything!
1. Comedian Munawar Faruqui Sent to Judicial Custody for 37 Days
You’re probably already familiar with what happened here, but here’s a quick recap, just in case: On the first day of the year, Munawar Faruqui was on stage in Indore, about to perform, when Ekalavya Gaur, son of Indore BJP MLA Malini Gaur, got up on stage himself. Taking the mic from Faruqui, he put his arm around him, and proceeded to gently scold the audience for supporting an artist who had been making fun of Indian gods and goddesses, and our Home Minister. We’re pretty used to people getting offended by jokes, FIRs even, but this time Faruqui and four others were, within the next few minutes, booked under IPC sections like 295-A (outraging religious feelings) and 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life). And then placed in judicial custody. A few days later, Kamlesh Sharma of the Tukaganj Police Station was quoted by The Indian Express as saying, “There’s no evidence against him for insulting Hindu deities or Union Minister Amit Shah.” Audience members present at the show also insist he hadn’t cracked a single joke on any of the alleged topics. According to some reports, the offence was taken at the potential, to the tune of “he was about to make these jokes, I just know it, best to toss the lot of them in jail.” Faruqui was finally released after 37 days, the others shortly after.
WTF Level: 10/10
2. Rahul Dua Apologises For Joke That ‘Offended’ Dentists and Physiotherapists
Rahul Dua had to take down a video titled Doctors & Names within 12 hours of release, after physiotherapists and dentists complained about hurt sentiments. In the clip, the comedian pokes light fun at the professions, making joking comparisons between “real” doctors vs dentists and physiotherapists. In an apology video that followed, Dua clarified that the jokes were part of a crowd-work performance and not a rehearsed set, and not the comic’s opinions but some funny thoughts that popped into his head in the spur-of-the-moment. “Main khud physiotherapist ke paas jaata hoon, mere teen RCT hue hai, main khud dentist ke paas jaata hoon, puri ijjat hai,” he said.
WTF Level: Stop it.
3. Seth Rogen Is Now Selling Weed
In what was a month too early to be an April’s Fool joke, no matter what it sounded like, Seth Rogen launched his Canadian cannabis company Houseplant in the United States. On offer is a range of accessories like ashtrays and lighters and some pretty fugly ceramics, as well as three special strains of chronic (Diablo Wind, Pancake Ice and Pink Moon) that are currently only available in California. The 38-year-old comedian, actor, director and out-and-proud stoner has long been an advocate for marijuana reform throughout his career, both on-screen and off it. He finally put his money where his mouth (and spliff) is.
WTF Level: 2/10
4. Bo Burnham Releases Wild Pandemic Experiment/Comedy Special ‘Inside’
“So, uh, five years ago, I quit performing live comedy, because I was beginning to have severe panic attacks while on stage, which is not a good place to have them.” After a five-year hiatus, Bo Burnham returned this year to release Inside, an ambitious comedy special experiment that used cinematic tools to challenge both his own craft and what comedy is supposed to do. Self-written, self-edited and self-directed in Burnham’s home over a year and some, it’s a restless hour of funhouse mirrors that reflect the existential crisis and pandemic panic we all share(d)—through songs, sketches, fever dream monologues…. and a sock puppet. If you haven’t watched it yet, you must. Yes, it will throw up the whole “is it even comedy?” debate all over again, like with Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. but this is genre-defying stuff, and frankly the most extraordinary project to have come out of lockdown. “Can one be funny when stuck in a room?” he croons on the track ‘Look Who’s Inside Again’. Lots to think about, lots that will loop itself in your head long after the end credits roll. Here’s our full review. And here’s the ace fucking playlist.
Oh, it’s also up for a Grammy under the ‘Best Music Film’, and the song ‘All Eyes On Me’ gets a nod in the shortlist for ‘Best Song Written For Visual Media’.
WTF Level: 10/10
5. Conan O’Brien Quit Late Night TV
“When I started there were three late night hosts,” Conan said in his farewell speech. “Now there’s 25 hosts, and I’m the ‘I Thought You Died Six Years Ago Guy.’” Closing out a legacy of a whopping 28-year run on late night TV—11 on TBS, where he replaced David Letterman—he had a week-long farewell through which he thanked his “squad” and staff, audience and friends. And of course there was lots of the kind of basic, cheesy stuff people say when they’re emotional that you’re mildly embarrassed makes sense to you too. His advice for anyone watching, for instance, is to “try and do what you love with people you love, and if you can manage that, it’s the definition of heaven on earth”. But the line that everyone loved and quoted all over the place was “I think when smart and stupid come together, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”
And while he may have retired this particular bit of a “really crazy and seemingly pointless pursuit”, it was a little less sad because he’s not really going anywhere—he has a weekly variety show coming up on HBO Max, slated for a 2022 release.
WTF Level: Well, it was going to happen…
6. Netflix Announces ‘The First Stand-Up Comedy Special Written Entirely By Bots’
In July, Netflix announced the release of ‘The First Stand-Up Comedy Special Written Entirely By Bots’. Is this the beginning of the end? Is robot comedy the next big thing? Can they be trained to never offend anybody? How do we cancel them? Twitter got caught up in the daily debate, of course, but turns out we needn’t be worried yet. The whole thing has been scripted by comedian Keaton Patti, who’s spent the last few years trying to convince us that AI is now good enough to take over writers’ rooms and the world of standup. It’s full of disjointed thoughts and nonsensical jokes and, well, why were we all panicking? It’s been a weird year. We forgive you. Chin up, punchlines down.
WTF Level: 3/10
7. India’s First Publication & Media Platform For Comedy DeadAnt Loses Instagram Account
Look, if you’ve been paying even a little attention, we know how to turn anything into “news”. But this was real for us, and devastating for everyone who’d worked on it for two sleepless years. In August this year, DeadAnt lost its original Instagram account and our community of 50k comedy fans for reasons we’re still trying to wrap our heads around. We nagged Instagram, and cried to people in high places, and finally surrendered to the floor in foetal position. Started from the bottom, now we… BACK HERE?! Get serious. A week later, we started building it right back up again because we’re stubborn fuckers. And we do not simply give up. Social media sucks. Yes, we’re whining. If you could make everyone you know follow us on @deadant.co and tell us how to make a reel, that would be great. And grapes. #IYKYK
WTF Level: 32/10
8. Vir Das Nominated for an EMMY
In September, Vir Das was nominated for an international EMMY award in the comedy category for his Netflix special, Vir Das: For India. Das was up against popular French show Call My Agent, the UK’s Motherland: Christmas Special and Colombian series Promesas de Campana. Call My Agent won top honours as was expected, but Das’ nomination was huge for Indian comedy. Following the nomination, Das put out a call for up and coming Indian fashion designers to get in touch with him to dress him for the main event in LA to platform lesser known talent in India. He received over 400 entries, through the process of which he discovered Pradeep Bhatt from Haldwani, Uttrakhand—a 4th year student at LIFT Kangra. Das bought and wore Bhatt’s outfit to the event, and it will soon be auctioned for charity.
WTF Level: 10/10 (no pun inTENded lolololsorry)
9. Comedy Cellar Forces Patrons To Pay Tabs As Venue Floods Due To Hurricane
A relaxing evening of fun and comedy took a quick turn for the worse when the iconic Comedy Cellar in New York City had to cut the evening short because the basement began to flood. And here’s the kicker—the venue made people wait in ankle-deep water to clear their bills. A viral TikTok video—which blames capitalism for the ordeal that the audience had to go through—shows us guests standing on tables and chairs to avoid the rising water as the staff goes around clearing people’s tabs. The entire scenario could have been avoided altogether as the iconic club’s Village Underground location was apparently aware of a possible flooding given the thunderstorm warning issued by the National Weather Service. The situation could have easily gotten out of hand due to the devastating floods—which claimed 43 lives in NYC, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut—caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. The flooding cut short a surprise set by former Minnesota senator Al Franken, who has been trying to make a comeback sine his resignation in 2017, following accusations of sexual misconduct.
WTF Level: 7/10
10. Louis CK (& Bros) Nominated for GRAMMY
Cancel culture is really devastating. Four years after Louis CK was accused of and admitted to sexual misconduct with several women who accused him of inappropriate behaviour including masturbating in front of them, the comedian was nominated for a Grammy. He’s been shortlisted in the Best Comedy Album category for his comedy special Sincerely, Louis CK, whichhe released on his website last year without warning (seems to be his thing). This decision received understandable backlash, leading the CEO to put out a statement saying, “What we will control is our stages, our shows, our events, our red carpets. We’ll take a look at anyone who is asking to be a part of that, asking to be in attendance, and we’ll make our decisions at that point. But we’re not going to be in the business of restricting people from submitting their work for our voters to decide on.”
Other hotly debated nominees include Kevin Hart (Best Comedy Album category for Zero F*cks Given) and Dave Chappelle (Best Spoken Word category for 8:46).
WTF Level: 8/10
11. Munawar Faruqui’s Goa Shows Cancelled Following Self-Immolation Threats
Munawar Faruqui has been trying to get back on stage all year, but it hasn’t been easy with shows being called off last minute following complaints by various offended parties. Perhaps the wildest threat came through in November, when Faruqui was scheduled to perform in Goa, where a group of people declared they’d set themselves on fire if his show wasn’t cancelled. DeadAnt spoke to a spokesperson for the venue, who said, “The local police got in touch with us to say they had received several complaints about the show, including a written threat that 500 people would set themselves on fire if the event was allowed to take place […] We decided to cancel the show to avoid putting the audience and venue at risk of any physical harm.”
WTF Level: 55/10