Their claim to fame was a spoof video on rape that featured actress Kalki Koechlin and VJ Juhi. But All India Bakchod (AIB) has been around since 2012 through stand comics Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhat, with Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi joining on later.
Having just completed their four-city tour The Royal Turds across the country, co-founder Khamba tells us about their outfit and what being funny really means.
To begin with he tells us why AIB is named so. “It was a play on All India Radio. We started as a podcast where we could say everything the radio didn’t let us so that’s how it came about.”
Acknowledging that the toughest challenge as a stand up comedian is getting people to open their minds to taboo subjects, they found Chennai had the best audience on their tour.
“All audiences have been fantastic. But the ones that surprised us the most was Chennai because we didn’t know what to expect. They turned out to be as tuned in as anyone in Bollywood. But really, anyone with an open mind who listens and doesn’t bother recording shows are the best audience.”
Using the stage as their personal diary (“The stage is just a place to vent,” says Khamba), the four comics have become the poster boys for a stand up comedy outfit on Youtube. Which is perhaps why it made sense for them to feature in the Youtube festival that was conducted early March.
Talking about the experience, he says, “We’ve been stand up comics for five years now. So the fan fest was easy because it’s our natural habitat. We were also able to catch some of the other acts, like Super Woman’s. She’s great and super funny. We shot a video with her too. It’s always fun getting to work with other funny people with different styles and backgrounds.”
When we ask him what makes the synergy between the four of them work so well, Khamba says with a straight face, “All of us are the same age, love attention and have no other friends.” And when not making a spoof or penning their next joke? “This is literally all we do. I think drinking beer, tweeting and trying to convince our families to not get us married off,” he says light-heartedly.
Contrary to the notion that stand up comics find it hard for people to take them seriously, the co-founder tells us that the audience is more discerning and knows when to make the distinction. But when the lines blur between wit and crass, he says there’s no balancing act. “What might be wit for you might be crass for someone else. It’s always subjective, so we just say what we want to say.”
With all of them already doing mainstream work across different mediums -- Tanmay is doing movies, everyone else writes and has starred in TV shows, besides authoring columns for newspapers – AIB professes to love the internet most. “We just love the internet because it’s the last refuge of some semblance of free speech,” explains Khamba. At the same time, he doesn’t literally mean ‘free’ speech.
“Charging for our creativity is not about funding us, it’s about respecting the art and not treating it as free. People need to learn to pay for art and people’s effort.”
Quite optimistic about the future, AIB feel like they are at the right place at the right time. “The comedy scene in India has gone from being just a scene a few years ago into a legitimate entertainment industry. That’s the biggest thing so far because it’s happened from of a mix of new comics, money coming into the industry and clubs like the Comedy Store opening in the country. The future is looking very good.”
Promising a lot more sketches and live shows soon, Khamba signs off on this note, “We’ve been trying to come over to Hyderabad and do a live show since ages but we’ve been struggling trying to find a venue. Tell us where!”