Laughter and television

Faria Syed June 07, 2010

You know something is wrong when the funniest thing on television is supposed to be an overweight mustachioed man dancing along to an Indian song. The idea of what is humour on Pakistani television has slowly degenerated. While older comedy programmes such as PTV’s “Aangan Terha” and “Fifty Fifty” were based on witty and biting dialogue that often took a hit at the system, most programming today is restricted to slapstick, in-your-face jokes.

Modern sitcoms usually include a cast of three or more women who remain constantly confused, fall over, physically attack each other and sometimes even men. Another popular cliché sitcoms tend to cling to is the villager in an urban setting. This unconscious nod to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court began with Boota from Toba Tek Singh, an extremely successful television play in the late nineties. Since then it has been deemed humorous for characters with rural backgrounds to mock urban norms like women wearing jeans, men taking care of children and the English language.

Another form of comedy on our screens comes in the form of TV stand-up comedy competitions. The idea started with the programme “Last comic standing” and has resulted in copy-cats all over the world.

Political humour is relatively less absurd. Older programmes were forced to be far more subtle on PTV while modern satires largely rely on look-a-like comediennes doing impressions of political figures. Comedy programmes on news networks take hits at leaders, policies and celebrities in an indulgent, obvious fashion that has audiences in stitches. The programmes allow the news-weary audience to take a break from barking leaders and analysts and laugh at them.

Fortunately, just because droll witty humour is not on the TV guide today that does not mean it doesn’t exist. Programmes like Sab Set Hai, College Jeans, Agent X and VJ have proven that funny television can be produced. And you don’t have to make fun of politicians to do it.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 7th, 2010.


Baa | 11 years ago | Reply True....I guess part of the problem is that writers don't want to work...they are after quick bucks and recycle words/acts and the producer shoots it on the cheap and the station sells the ads...everyone goes home with some dough in their pockets, who cares about the quality! Like you wrote back in the day PTV aired a lot of good programs which are still popular in this day and age...I wonder what happened to those types of writers and comics, are creative minds and writers no where to be found in Pakistan these days? Is TV only about political satire and slandering these days? I thought it was about entertainment with the family.
Hala | 11 years ago | Reply I completely agree with this. There is nothing even slightly amusing about what passes for comedy on TV. The most glaring problem is the recycling of jokes, once you've seen the same thing 100 times it just isn't funny anymore.
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