Ricky Gervais’ 'SuperNature': Offensive humour is relevant today

Had the show been in India, Ricky would have been charged with sedition, defamation and what not and probably would have been arrested

Ricky Gervais’ 'SuperNature': Offensive humour is relevant today

Pragati Saxena

He is brutal, extremely abusive, particularly shocking to the Indian sensibilities. But wait, aren’t Indians abusive? (They are. In fact a large section of our society uses the expletive targeting ‘sister’ as a habit or a catchphrase). He makes fun of everyone. Women, feminists, obese people, Boris Johnson, Hijab etc. But most importantly, he makes fun of himself, and the ‘rich’ and privileged class he belongs to.

I was introduced to Ricky with the milder and humane version of him in ‘Afterlife’. It is a heartwarming show about losing a loved one in your life and coming to terms with the loss and accepting that life is transient. Although the brash Ricky was reflected there too but not so much. Somehow the show was reassuring, full of warmth of human relationship.

But SuperNature brings him back with a vengeance. Had the show been in India, Ricky would have been charged with sedition, defamation and what not and probably would have been arrested. (remember Munawar Faruqui? Poor Munawar is not even half as offending as Ricky is. And then we have Kunal Kamra, who despite threats and legal cases clamped on him doesn’t give up making fun of those who are ‘powerful’).

Ricky kind of laments the hyper sensitivity prevalent today- that you can’t pass a careless comment anymore. So true of India actually! In fact there is a new trend of ‘woke shows’ which promise to be ‘non-offensive’! But well, Ricky won’t have any of it. And why should he? His comedy genre is called ‘insult comedy’ (black comedy-if you like). If he abstains from laughing at you all and at us all-then he wouldn’t be true to his art form!

In India we used to have vidushak in the times of kings and queens. And the main task/duty of vidushak was to laugh at the king and his cabinet. The kings nurtured those irreverent comedians who were in fact very wise people. Why did Kings want vidushaks to mock at them? Because, that was the way they could understand themselves, public opinion about them and their shortcomings too. Ironical, that now we have democracy in India, but we really have to mind our expressions and words while talking about those in power even if in a joke!

This is a significant part of humour – it makes you laugh at your shortcomings, that way encourages you to work on them and presents a creative reality check. This kind of humour at once provides you with a mirror which shows your real face without any aesthetic adornment. And Ricky excels in this. Although many reviewers have criticized the show saying that he is repetitive, hurting and boring. Repetitive? Well, to an extent. Hurting- that he aims at actually. Boring? No, not at all!

Listening to him, I kept thinking of ourselves as a society. We have plenty to laugh at, to mock and jeer at. But we can’t, unfortunately. Even a cartoonist must think twice before making a cartoon nowadays, even if that cartoon is about inflation and a quarrel between a couple over it. Who knows, what is taken as a contempt or defamation or insult to religion/community/government/minister(s) and immediately after the trauma of court cases and arrest may start!

So, ladies and gentlemen, Ricky is doing a great job, insulting while simultaneously holding a mirror to the society. We miss it here in India. Well at times, one should just give up being touchy and enjoy a joke, isn’t it?

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