Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why I laugh with Johny Alaa Re

So here is this sketch show on Zee TV built entirely around the rubber-faced comedian Johny Lever. His comedy is overwrought and fairly recycled. And yet after watching a few episodes, I found myself laughing deeply and often at least during a few segments. So how does his low brow humor draw us in?

Well, there are several reasons when you sit down and think about it.

Johny Lever simply puts his heart and soul into everything. Even when a skit is obviously not working, he goes at it full tilt and tries to squeeze at least one laugh out of the audience. Since he has such an earnest and guilleless way of operating, its hard not to root for this guy.

His humor is very earthy and taps into the Indian psyche. Of particular interest is this segment he does called "2 much" where he plays himself interviewing a public figure, also played by himself. He's taken Himmesh Reshammiya to task for singing through his nose, Parvez Musharraf for harboring terrorists and Karan Johar for making boring epics. In one terrific piece, he plays Amitabh and Shah Rukh Khan arguing about who is the better Don. Its comedy via brutal honesty: ask the obvious but uncomfortable question and it'll be funny.

He sees comedy in the everday. If comedy is your religion, Johny is its Sufi saint. There was a recent segment where he walked in the midst of his audience and challenged them to grab a crisp Rs 100 rupee bill falling from his fingers with just their forefinger and thumb. If they did, they could keep the note. No one could do after repeated tries. We tried it at home for hours afterwards.

He is an astute reader of the Indian cultural barometer. Watch his monologues on the vapid rabidness of the media. Or his gig about how Indians love to attract attention by threatening elaborate suicides. He comments, with wide eyed wonder and a tinge of regret, on the changing cultural times in the country. His regret is tinged with hope and that is something we can all relate to.

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