Dialogue on Laughing Our Way To Peace

KARACHI: Comedy plays an integral role in creating a holistic and inclusive society and humour has been used to diffuse many a tense situation, not just in an intimate setting but ideologically as well.

In a dialogue and performance session on the 17th of October, 2019, four comedic legends graced a panel and discussed the current climate of intolerance and hostility that the contemporary artist of comedy faces today. Shafaat Ali, Zeba Shehnaz, Saleem Afridi and Ayaz Khan gave the audience their points of view on why comedy today is in peril and why the environment today is not conducive to it.

Shafaat Ali said that comedy today is not of the same quality as 50/50 because comedians today are not politically correct. Comedy is supposed to be used as a tool for a progressive society and to point out the flaws in a system. He said for instance if we make fun of all the people who do not educate their daughters, soon we will be a part of a world where not educating ones daughters will be a thing of revulsion.

“There is a real dearth of comedy writers in this country,” Ayaz Khan lamented, “in other countries a comedian has five writers assigned to them to write them jokes, but here we have no value for humour.” It was also discussed that because our society does not value comedy as a genre we are not getting new and fresh talent, it is the same old one-man shows that are popular on Youtube, but no concrete movement for comedy.

Saleem Afridi was of the opinion that levels of tolerance have decreased so much that it is because our community is fixated on one template of comedy and repeat it on every platform till it has lost its bite. People have forgotten how to laugh at themselves.

Zeba Shehnaz spoke about her time in 50/50, a popular comedy show in Pakistan from the 70’s. She stated that the reason the show has had such sustained popularity is because it spoke about social issues that are pertinent even today. Comedy in todays age is too shortsighted to have that longevity.

Shafaat Ali was hopeful because he said in todays age every audience is a global audience and every performer is performing on a global stage, with worldwide reach. This means the platform has limitless potential and anyone with the technology can access it. The recent fame of tiktok artists can attest to this phenomenon.

The panelists also discussed how comedy is not something anyone can afford to do as their only profession, with the current economic climate it is imperative that artists make sure their day to day expenses are met with another stream of income. Saleem Afridi closed the session with a humourous poem to uplift the audiences spirits in closing.

Media Baithak serves as a community space for the cultural engagement of media and civil society representatives. It gives a platform to distinguished voices from the fields of journalism, politics, academia and other fields to discuss contemporary issues of the society.

The organization has previously conducted sessions on the role of poetry in combating violent extremism, women empowerment, the role of qawwali in promoting positive values, journalists’ training on social media and the role of media in spreading peace and harmony in the society.

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