It’s tragic how humorless the developing world is usually portrayed. Because take it from me, the people there are hilarious.
Stand Up Planet began with a hypothesis: The world is full of struggle. Comedy comes from adversity. This must be one hilarious planet. To prove it, we ventured around the globe to places dealing with some serious issues. The world’s highest HIV infection rate in South Africa. A sanitation crisis of staggering proportion in India. Surely, there could be no punchlines here.
But it was unmistakable – Spilling out of huts, shacks, and makeshift comedy clubs. The sound of laughter, everywhere, led by young rebel heroes of a new stand up insurgency who were slaying eager audiences with the truth. And it was beautiful.
Our mantra throughout was, “Follow the joke.”
We followed a joke about open-air defecation as a national defense strategy into a Mumbai slum and learned how growing awareness of health and sanitation is changing age-old behaviors. We followed a joke about sending kids to their room in a one-room shack into a township created during apartheid, where we learned that deep economic divisions remain in a country where racial harmony is gospel.
But mostly, we followed the jokes into the lives of the joke tellers – fearless members of an exploding global comedy underground who are raising their voices, making people laugh and making people think. There’s nothing inherently funny about hunger, poverty and disease. But there’s something powerfully life – affirming about laughing in the face of hardship. Humor is humanity’s antibody to defeat, and it’s as much about survival as the air we breathe.
On behalf of my co-creator Xandra Castleton and the rest of the supremely talented Stand Up Planet team, I sincerely hope you are as inspired watching Stand Up Planet as we were making it. To paraphrase the great South African comedian Trevor Noah, if this comedy thing doesn’t work out, we’ve always got poverty to fall back on.
-David Munro, Director/EP