As the country awaits their news show and debut on television, Rohan Joshi, the oldest member of the All India Bakchod, tells it like it is. By Ryan Peppin
Their brand of humour varies from witty to sarcastic and even downright wicked. They don’t care much for fashion statements, but swear by T-shirts and dinner jackets. We’re talking about the All India Bakchod (AIB), who are redefining the India sense of humour with their YouTube videos that are so viral, they gave Ebola a run for its money. Essentially a band of four stand up comedians who shot to fame by pulling the pants off Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor in a roast of epic proportions (the AIB Knockout) earlier this year, the AIB are not just about humour. Former journalist Rohan Joshi, scriptwriters Tanmay Bhat and Ashish Shakya and media and cultural studies graduate Gursimran Khamba, surprised us with their Party Song video featuring Irrfan Khan, that pointed out, among other things, how Bollywood is obsessed with objectifying women through ‘item numbers’. Now, they hope to engage us in a news comedy show, On Air With AIB, that premiers online on Hotstar and on the Star Network as well. “It is modelled on the likes of The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight. In our country, news comedy shows make a joke and move on. We thought let’s try to talk news and not just joke. The reactions to our net neutrality videos show that there are a lot of young people waiting to act, but they need someone who is not talking down to them,” says Joshi, speaking for his team. Expect AIB to put the spotlight on “under covered news” or day to day issues that the media underplays. “We’ll see if we can make people pay attention to them. In a line our show is, “what if Satyamev Jayate was meant to make you laugh and not cry”,” Joshi adds. We get chatting about the 20-episode show and other funny things, ahead of On Air With AIB’s premier on October 29.
Your videos cost over a lakh to produce. Have you been approached with sponsorship?
Several brands have approached us. Snapdeal is one of our first sponsors — we do integrations with them in our videos. We give brands complete creative freedom only if the content is for their channel. When it’s for our channel, they have no creative call.
Mediums of entertainment that have been most effective for you?
This is our first time on television, so we can’t say yet. But the internet is mind blowingly effective in sheer numbers. YouTube even tells me the exact point where a viewer closed the video. We have plans for the future. Like movies — not just to appear in them, but write, direct, produce, etc. It will be comedy, but you never know — we also have other interests. But We are children of the internet. We are committed to the internet and television is a bonus at this point. In fact, the show will premiere online on Hotstar, two days before the television. So Star Network was like a bonus for us.
Stand up shows are seeing packed houses across the country. Is comedy becoming a viable career option?
Absolutely. I know at least 20 people in my circle who have taken up comedy full time. That said, stand up is like any other performance area — only a handfull will become wildly successful. That’s why my advice is don’t quit your day job. Only when we saw it paying our bills did we take up comedy full time.
Would you say that there is always an underlying message in your jokes?
Our first goal is comedy. We must never forget that we are comedians and that is priority. Many young comedians think that because people are listening to them, they should be evangelists. A lot of our ideas come from headlines, but our content is not always message driven. Like the Alia Bhatt video. There was no message there. Just funny.
How much work goes into a video like the Party Song?
A tonne of work. What’s funny is the point we are making through the song. Putting that into rhyming lyrics is a lot of work, but also great fun to do. We have to make Rs.1 lakh look like Rs.10 lakh, and thankfully we have a dedicated team. We have even begged pub owners to let us shoot and luckily, there was positive response. The song was written between August and September last year and we had been tweaking it since then. But there are some sketches like the one with Alia Bhatt that was ready in 10 days and was finished a week later.
Have negative reactions actually worked in your favour?
On a level, yes. That was not the intention though. We realised that there really is no such thing as bad publicity. The ‘samaj’ talking can actually work in your benefit. Nothing changed the fact that the roast was the biggest celebrity event of the year.
Collaborations and more
Other comedians you plan to collaborate with on the show.
We don’t have a confirmed spot with fellow comedian Kanan Gill yet, because he has a lot of commitments. Abilash Mathew is working with us. As are a lot of other youngsters. We want to make the show a platform for talent and collaborate with others. Our YouTube channel will be on cold storage for a while, but you can watch us on Hotstar more regularly. In fact, this will be our most regular flow of content since we started.
The comedians you follow?
A lot. We are religious fans of John Oliver, Chris Rock, Doug Stanhope, Louis CK and a lot of shows. We don’t watch them together because we just don’t want to see the same faces after working with each other for 12 hours. But we trade recommendations.
Speaking of Kanan Gill, will you get back at his Twitter troll?
One day I will get him for that Chris Martin tweet (Gill started a rumour that AIB was collaborating with Coldplay). It’s coming. The score will be settled. Kanan, if you are reading this, run.
By the way, what was it like meeting Chris Martin in New Delhi?
All of us are Coldplay fans. The most fun was going out and getting drunk with him and he playing a small set at Summer House in Delhi. A lot of people didn’t even realise it was him. It was the most surreal moment of our lives.
After the AIB Knockout, have you started self censoring?
Not really. With the Knockout, it was a roast, so we should be able to say anything and everything. But after doing this for four years, our thought process has evolved. We debate jokes a bit more now. Four years has taught us a bunch of things. You only punch upwards, at people who are more powerful than you. Punching someone less powerful than you is bullying. Also, add a layer of nuance and don’t try to please everyone, that’s a fools errand.
When can we expect the next AIB Knockout and which celebrities will be roasted?
I wish I knew. We will after the show. Ask me the same question in January. It will take a lot more to convince them next time, but we are not giving up. And yes, we do have a dream wishlist of people we want to roast. But I don’t want to jinx it.
What is the purpose of your second channel, AIB Doosra?
Doosra is for longer cuts of our content. Again, dormant for a while because of the show. It is a space that doesn’t have the pressures of the main channel. It’s our ‘play area’ where we post content we’re not too sure of.
Do you have your own stylists and managers now?
Stylists? Yes. We can’t be left to our own devices on that. But we will not enter the culture of wearing new clothes to every event. I want to become famous and wear the same clothes to all the events in the year and have people write about it.
|Rapid FireBesides Rajinikanth, what is the one thing you will not joke about in Chennai?
Chettinad food. It’s entirely too amazing to make fun of.
The most fashionable politician in the country, after PM Narendra Modi of course.
Pankaj Parakh. Google him. You won’t be disappointed.
What will be the consequence of the internet being made free for the whole of India?
We will finally see what the absolute limits of our stupidity are. The absolute bottom. Because when all 1.2 billion people have internet, on the basis of the comments they leave to things, we can get the definitive ranking of smartest to dumbest Indian.
Replace the words Madarasi and Mallu with more apt alternatives…
Srinivasan (it’s more offensive, in my humble opinion) and Dubairoxx.
Two things that should positively NOT be ‘made in India’, and why…
Dating apps: It’s just one giant tharki party.
Cycling tracks: go to Europe and cycle. It’s 37 degrees here.
After geeks, is funny the new sexy?
No. This is a lie. Women have said “I love funny guys” for ages and then they marry rich guys. So no.
Was Creepy Qawwali inspired by incidents that you or somebody you know faced?
Hahaha too many to share. Just turn around and ask the woman next to you. She almost definitely has better stories than us.
Would you consider starting a comedy academy?
It’s a long cherished dream actually.
Besides “tell me a joke”,
May I borrow your underpants.
— with inputs from