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.
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