For any nation to be considered as a democracy, freedom of speech is imperative and humour comes under the purview of that. Humour teaches you to shut the non-liberal and keep up the liberal in you. It could take many forms such as slapstick, satire, racist or even profanity. Humour based on profanity primarily makes use of cuss words to generate some cheap laughs. Now, what exactly are cuss words? Urban dictionary defines them as “Words that have been deemed inappropriate and you don’t normally hear in public or “normal” conversation. Fun to use and you get to watch people over-react when you scream “F**K” at the top of your lungs”. Now the definition in the internet didn’t really have the two asterix in the middle of the capitalized word in the above sentence. So, why did I censor it? It’s not like after putting two asterix, you don’t really understand the meaning of the word. Do you? So, what difference does it make if I write the complete word instead without any censorship?
All guys would definitely admit to having a circle of friends who use these cuss words among themselves to ridicule, mock, insult or humiliate each other but not in the actual intended sense of it. These expletives, when exchanged with someone, are not really meant in their literal meaning but just as a cool lingo. Now whether it is actually cool to mouth cuss words is a subjective and different topic altogether. But in almost every case these words are just used for friendly banter.
AIB uploaded their roast video on YouTube. There are loads of videos on YouTube that some people may find offensive. Do we take YouTube down? No, we choose to not see those videos. Now the reason for the uproar is that the video had dirty, explicit and demeaning comments which ironically the recipients of the comments were quite sporting enough to accept as humour and friendly banter. But, the very purpose of a roast is to insult. Saying a roast has dirty comments is like saying an adult rated movie has violence or explicit scenes in it. The question that everyone is asking now is “Does the roast genre itself demand profanity?”. Can an insult be sugar-coated in polite terms? Did the AIB roast actually degrade, corrupt or injure the public morality and morals”? I refuse to believe that culture, heritage, beliefs and religion are so weak in our country that they get affected by jokes and mundane comments.
Having said that, it should have been expected by AIB that topics that are discussed behind closed doors in our culture can’t all of a sudden be expected to be accepted with no sense of discomfort whatsoever. The 4000 people at the live event probably saw it coming but millions of viewers on YouTube were probably taken aback with the sheer audacity and openness with which cuss words were exchanged. I am not sure whether the concept of roast demands profanity to insult the protagonists but in my opinion politically incorrect and swear words should not be the whole prop of your humour. One needs to give the Indian audience time to embrace a paradigm shift from the form of humour it is used to accept.
As of today, every form of expression in this country is being corrupted by pseudo-intellectuals and neo-liberals. They feel that it is their birth right to tell stories, make films or even do comedy. The current generation has a sense of irony, a lot of cynicism and less self-importance which in all likelihood is not the case with our preceding generation. Hence, they get all defensive once anything breaches their comfort zone. Freedom of speech is an important topic for a society like ours, which at times, can be very archaic. Can we all just lighten up and laugh about how messed up we are?
To quote Ethel Barrymore, “You grow up the first day you have a first good laugh – at yourself”.