Stand-up Comedy for Social Change in India
This research project considers how stand-up comedy is used for social change in India. In 2023, India's Press Freedom Index has slipped down to 161 out of 180 countries. Politically partisan media, concentration of media ownership, and violence against journalists contribute to constraining freedom of speech in the country. As the mainstream media fails to fulfill its watchdog role, unregulated, creative spaces for political expression have emerged, with stand-up comedy becoming extremely popular. Evidence suggests that “Laughtivism”—the use of satire as a key tactic of protest—is helping non-violent resistance movements to succeed by talking back to authoritarian regimes around the world, and now in India. With a focus on key comedians such as Sanjay Rajoura and Varun Grover, my study will employ interviews and textual analysis of comedy videos to investigate how stand-up comedy creates an alternative public sphere to provide political critique and foment social change.