It’s not everyday you get to chat with some of the coolest (and ribald) folks in the comedy scene. We cornered All India Bakchod (AIB) co-founders Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba with compatriots Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya as they were getting back from sound-check. Their Bollywood parody awards show, The Royal Turds, was about to commence in a few minutes but what they were extremely taken by was the noir sheen of their suits. No, we’re not kidding. But here’s what they have to say about Bollywood, the stand-up comedy scene in the country and their hilarious selves.
Q. How do you write your scripts?
Rohan: Designated typer is Ashish.
Ashish: I’m the only one sober enough or not checking Twitter.
Rohan: By default, it’s Ashish.
Tanmay: At no point is anyone doing any writing work alone. There’s at least two or three of us in the room. More often than not, sketches are finalized with all four of us.
Q. What garners maximum laughter?
Ashish: There’s a slight disconnect between what we think is amazing and what people always laugh at.
Rohan: The thing is, when you use the phrase ‘what people always laugh at’, it’s a polite way of saying lowest common denominator, which is always politics, communities and sex.
Tanmay: Communities is your cheapest stuff. Parsis marry their sisters, Gujjus are cheap, Punjabis drink alcohol….
Rohan: Maharashtrians don’t like North Indians….
Ashish: Political jokes also. You’ll get laughs at saying stuff like Mayawati’s a dude. But it’s not something we do.
Rohan: It’s something you get out of your system in your first four or five months of comedy and then you move on.
Tanmay: And then when you have to illicit laughs from these stereotypes you do it way smarter.
Q. What about hesitant laughter?
Rohan: The darker places people don’t like to think about – that’s your quiet laughter. For example, if you pick on their religion. The second you say the word ‘Muslim’, there’s a moment of silence. Any topic that has previously generated controversy in this country automatically is serious stuff.
Khamba: It also depends on the room. Canvas Laugh Factory is a very rich Gujju room.
Rohan: You could get away with a Muslim or Maharashtrian joke at Blue Frog in Mumbai but if you went to Nasik or the interiors, you won’t.
Ashish: We wouldn’t talk about Muslims or joke about something like women’s safety. There’s a basic rule. You never make a joke on the oppressed. If I’m talking about Muslims, I try to bring out the bias against them. Or if you talk about women’s safety, you can talk about how Indian men are stupid in their approach towards women as opposed to laughing at it.
Rohan: Basically, humiliation in comedy has to travel up the food chain. You have to go from the victim to the person more powerful as opposed to the other way around.
Ashish: So even if it’s a dark topic, if you manage that, it works.
Q. Have you played a part in conditioning the audience to certain jokes?
Tanmay: I feel like people who come to watch us know what to expect from us because they’ve usually heard the podcast or seen us live or watched a video.
Rohan: So they know we’re not the safest brand of comedy. If you’ve been watching us for four years now, even as an audience member, you’re sick of the Gujju jokes.
Q. What’s your favourite gag?
Rohan: We’re now sick of our shows. We’ve done The Royal Turds 15 times now. We hate them all equally.
Khamba: There’s one we still laugh at.
Ashish: We laugh at the ones that we’ve dropped. I always crack up at Sanjay Dutt-Machine Gun.
Tanmay: The joke was that Sanjay Dutt was in jail and apparently he’s forgotten how to write. He had to get a list of things from home. I’m assuming there was a guy that writes what Sanjay wants. We did a dictation scene between Sanjay and the inmate which is…. (At which point of time, all members of AIB proceeded to render an impromptu act of their favoured sketch.)
Q. Similar to your Congress and UPA sketch about thanking them for providing such good fodder for material, who would you like to thank in Bollywood?
Ashish: Salman Bhai. Agar bhai nahi hote to hamare paas last year ka show nahi hota. Last year he did two films, so a lot of material came from that.
Q. Have you ever received defamation notices, threats or bans?
Rohan: Yes, yes and yes. Before our second show of Royal Turds, we got an email from somebody saying that bad things will happen, but then that was just a prank. But give it time.
Q. What makes you guys laugh?
Khamba: Dumb stuff makes us laugh. If it’s horrible, it’s usually fun.
We caught the show at St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Mumbai and had a hilarious 2 hours. They were merciless. From Karan Johar’s incessant questioning on his talk show to the media’s obsession with skin, the questionable quality of lyrics, or Katrina Kaif’s equally questionable rise to the top; no one was spared. Each category of awards had a fitting champion. Highlight of the night was a musical medley of the choicest Bollywood tracks with Karunesh Talwar and Mehar Chumble joining them to provide music.
Catch The Royal Turds on June 20 at Siri Fort, Delhi, June 21 and 22 at Canvas Laugh Factory, Mumbai and June 28 at Bhaskara Auditorium, Hyderabad