Dear Comedy, when did you go from mere jokes to demeaning mockery? Yours truly, Ali Gul Pir

Published: September 12, 2018
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Television shows talk about the mystery behind the burka more than the energy crisis in the country. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

Dear comedy,

It is time to acknowledge your stake in my sanity, your ability to keep me hopeful in tough times and your power to not let me take life too seriously. I love how you take the world’s most tragic, absurd and unjust news and turn them into awesome memes (jokes) which make millions of people laugh.

When I was a child, I would repeatedly ask my mom to read out the jokes from her weekly magazine to me. I would memorise them so I could tell them later in school or to other adults.

Earlier on in life, I understood that if you’re funny, you will be accepted. It didn’t matter if you were dark-skinned, nerdy or poor. If you made people laugh, it would make you more likeable. This realisation made me earn the reputation of the ‘class clown’ and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

On the other hand, at a young age, I also experienced the dark side of humour one day, when I made fun of a classmate’s shoes because they were really big. They were those old, ‘uncle sneaker’ type shoes and I made the whole class laugh at them. It was funny till I saw him during our lunch break: he was sitting alone and crying in a corner. Unknowingly, I had used this magical power of acceptability for evil; I had used it to hurt a peer.

I have watched the internet make techno remixes of an interview of a drug-addict child (Kamlesh) and I have also seen George Carlin’s hilarious perspective on religion. The range of comedy in this world is tremendous and you can choose the jokes that best suit you.

Moreover, just like Pakistani music is known worldwide, our comedy is watched by many countries as well. Many times, I have seen Umer Shareef’s old jokes being recycled in top-rated Indian comedy shows. I also know many Bengalis who have vividly watched satirical sketch shows like 50/50.

Currently, we have so many different types of comedies to choose from. We have jugat, stand-up (from the likes of Rauf Lala to Saad Haroon), mimicry, improvisational, musical comedy and so many others. All these are mostly seen on television channels because that is the medium for the masses. Most Pakistanis are exposed to television more than any other form of media and television has given us many comedic classics like 50/50, Aangan Terha, Sub Set Hai, Bulbulay and many more.

But now, most of the political and social comedy I see on television is based on personalities rather than policies or social issues. At times, I’m left thinking if the producers of these shows are high when coming up with ideas. One such genius idea is to ridicule the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife, Bushra Maneka, because she doesn’t dress the way we want her to. Television shows talk about the mystery behind the burka more than the energy or water crises in the country.

Perhaps it’s easier to write a joke about the supposedly ‘effeminate’ manner in which Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari talks than to make an intelligent joke about his silence on the corruption committed by his party members, for instance. Whatever the reason may be, we now see an excess of mimicry and jokes about personal characteristics and appearances.

This demeaning form of comedy is not helping our culture. It is telling us to ridicule each other’s uniqueness instead of celebrating it. It might have been okay to say that all Sindhis are lazy or all Pathans are gay but it is definitely not the kind of comedy we need right now. We need to move on from comedy that divides and attacks and instead need to focus on making jokes that spread happiness and create an environment of inclusivity.

Comedy, my love, as a child you became a tool to make friends and currently, I make my livelihood because of you, but I hope that we all use you to spread love, tolerance and happiness and that we remember the golden words of Uncle Ben:

“With great power, comes great responsibilities.”

Yours truly (till I start getting Fawad Khan’s roles),

Gul

Ali Gul Pir

Ali Gul Pir

Comedian, writer, rapper and producer. He tweets as @Aligulpir (twitter.com/Aligulpir)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • bilal

    well saidRecommend

  • Toni Segarra

    The jokes, the humor, teasing, it is said of them: a joke, a smile. Two jokes, silence. Three jokes, one yawn. The problem with jokes, teasing, is that they can do some harm to others.
    Why, if we are happy, educated, if we go after order, do we need to harm others with ridicule, teasing, jokes, gossip?
    That means, we need to love everyone, be compassionate.Recommend

  • Humza

    Come on. When you in the political sphere, it’s fare game to dish it out to those in the public eye, especially politicians and in this case a family member who was essential in Imran Khan’s rise. She even went to the extent of divorcing her husband to marry Imran Khan and prophesied his win in a dream. Then she made a 180 u turn to put on her new outfit but still insists on being in the public eye front and centre with her new husband as PM. If you can’t understand that she makes for great comedy, you need to find another line of work. Most of us are looking forward to years of funny jokes brought on by the likes of Bushra Maneka, Imran Khan and his gang. So yes her new outfit and role as key spiritual adviser is the stuff of great satire which is fare game if you ask more people. It’s not the same of making fun of someone for being as you say short, dark, skinny or Indian looking. You are mixing up things. Political jokes and satire are really big in Western countries too.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Agree … very correctly and well said.Recommend

  • Ahmad Sidd

    Well said !Recommend

  • Aqib Ali Shah

    well said, well said. ! You won my heart when you penned. Bravo for speaking out the truth.

    ”This demeaning form of comedy is not helping our culture. It is telling us to ridicule each other’s uniqueness instead of celebrating it. It might have been okay to say that all Sindhis are lazy or all Pathans are gay but it is definitely not the kind of comedy we need right now. We need to move on from comedy that divides and attacks and instead need to focus on making jokes that spread happiness and create an environment of inclusivity.”Recommend

  • Manzoor Ahmed

    These television channels are being funded to spread anarchy and chaos in this country. Its to divert people from coming together on one platform on all crisis that this country is facing. Non issues are highlighted and actual issues are on the back benches. Against this funding these people have sold their worthless souls to the devil.Recommend

  • Hashim Hasan

    I think Fawad is right that we should not make fun of the way she dresses however making fun of her actions is justified. he very rightly pointed out that social issues need to come in the forefront so that through satire and comedy they can be highlighted to make an impact.
    Programs like Yes Minister can be seen as a way to generate ideas. This will surely make a bigger impact and may also have a positive outcome on the people who are in power.Recommend