Epic Journey

How Do You Follow a Joke Into a Deeper Story?


Is it possible to follow a comic’s joke to its real-life source? To trace the darkest, most satirical jokes to their origin to understand where they come from? Can we see social issues maybe a bit differently if the lens through which we travel is unexpected and even maybe a little controversial?

At its heart, this is the mission of “Stand Up Planet.” And if it sounds wacky, it’s because it is. The best ideas usually start that way.

In India, we set out to journey deep into the jokes from the soon-to-blow-up comedy scene, to see the parts of the country that give us jokes like this one from Tanmay Bhat:

No matter where you are from, you laugh when the jokes ring true – and sometimes you laugh the most when the joke-tellers are saying something that’s perhaps too uncomfortable to say out loud, or perhaps so absurdly sad that maybe humor is the only way. The audiences in India were laughing hard at stand up comic Aditi Mittal:

What does Aditi mean by “a thousand gleaming bums along the railway?” Well, here’s a cartoon explanation from Why Poverty that’s as gross as it is jaw-dropping:

We tried to wrap our heads around that number: 660 million Indians lack toilets and defecate outside. So what’s the everyday impact of this staggering statistic?

Tanmay took Hasan to meet Deval Sangavi of Dasra Foundation, an entrepreneur willing to get his hands dirty to prevent the deaths of thousands of Indian children who die everyday for lack of sanitation.

The lack of toilets is a huge problem, but it is turning around, thanks to innovators like Deval.

How do societies begin to tackle their biggest problems? In part, when bold new voices of young comics like Aditi and Tanmay start breaking barriers and saying the uncomfortable things, making us think and change.

By Caty Chattoo


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