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Our list of Indian comedians that deserve more recognition

by Mahmood Hossain

What’s so funny? This lot of characters from India.

By Mahmood Hossain

It’s been nearly two decades since Russell Peters’ performance on the TV show Comedy Now! (1997-2014) was first leaked online to the masses. The 45-minute stand-up show in 2004 was uploaded to the World Wide Web, while certain segments of the show were clipped out and spread like wildfire. He had become an icon overnight thanks to the internet and the newly-launched (at the time) online video-sharing platform, YouTube. Peters was a trailblazer, the only Indian representation on the global comedy stage. Born and raised in Canada, Peters provided the world with a unique desi perspective and approach to comedy that would pave the way for other well-known desi comedians we love and laugh with today.

While the likes of Hasan Minaj and Vir Das have been making waves on the world stage for quite some time, there are those who may not be as familiar to the general public outside of India. Now that streaming giants are providing more stand-up comedians the chance to connect with a completely different and larger audience, there are a few funny characters you should look out for the next time you want to have a good laugh.

Zakir Khan

A crucial element in creating a successful comedian is the art of storytelling. Zakir has mastered it. One of the funniest, highest-paid stand-up comedians in India and a product of the famous AIB, Zakir has been selling out shows on a regular and boasts over 7.5 million subscribers on YouTube. It also doesn’t hurt to be endearing to the audience; being naturally funny is a given.

You can catch Zakir Khan’s latest special Tathastu on Amazon Prime Video.

Kanan Gill

Possibly one of the more multi-talented individuals of the Indian comedic lot, Kanan Gill always delivers one heck of a performance; he has taken his on-stage talents and cemented them onto shows on YouTube and feature films. Kanan is known for his YouTube series, Pretentious Movie Reviews, co-hosted with stand-up comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath, where the two humorously review ridiculously-flawed Bollywood films of the past.

Abhishek Upmanyu

Abhishek is no stranger to the comedy scene, as he started his career in 2013 and uploaded his first stand-up video, Indian Insult & Comeback, in 2016. He is sharp, witty, and has amazing observation skills, which translates to deadpan delivery that strangely becomes relatable and endearing. To no one’s surprise, he’s a fan favourite throughout India.

Keep up to date with Abhishek’s tomfoolery by giving him a follow on Instagram (@aupmanyu) and diving into a pool of hilarity.

Aditi Mittal

As a seasoned veteran, Aditi has been making people laugh since the 2000s and continues to crank out laughter on stage. Not only was she one of the first females to do stand-up in India, CNN-IBN placed her on their Top 30 “witty, intelligent and incredibly fun” Indian women to follow on Twitter. Want more proof of her impact? The Times of India rated her as one of the top 10 stand-up comedians around.

Take a gander at Aditi’s Twitter page (@awryaditi) and you’ll see why her sharp humour, from politics to the human condition, makes you keep scrolling for more.

Anubhav Singh Basi

One of the better origin stories for comedians is when they’ve come back from giving back to society or serving their communities and end up sharing their unique experiences and perspectives on stage. Anubhav went from becoming a lawyer to a successful stand-up comic, and as expected, hilariously discusses his past failures as a true self-deprecating entertainer. Anubhav has been gaining momentum in the stand-up world coming off of a 35-city tour across India and delivering a TED Talk in the process.

Watch his latest comedy special Bas Kar Bassi on Amazon Prime Video or catch him in the recently-released film Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar on Netflix, starring Ranvir Kapoor.

Kenny Sebastian

Show business is notoriously challenging, plagued with pitfalls on anyone’s way to stardom. Even more difficult is staying relevant. Kenny quickly found himself within the right circles, and he isn’t resting on his comedic laurels on stage, as he’s been churning out music and films alongside his stand-up since he entered the entertainment world in the mid-2000s. But like a true entertainer, he can’t stop creating, worldwide touring, and being his quirky self across various platforms.

Be it on YouTube (@KennySebastian) or on his own podcast, Simple Ken Podcast, Kenny brings the funny in abundance.

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