Saturday, 29 May 2010

What are you laughing at?

Humour me a little.
First, watch this:

Now, grab a pen and paper, and watch the whole thing again, and write down what you thought was funny about it.
Here's my (incomplete) list:
  • The phirangi women dancing - brings up the Indian fascination for white skin, but at the same time it's also funny to see that these particular women are almost dowdy and behenji-esque in their dress - one of them's even wearing a kurti! - and dancing style
  • The dark-skinned Uday Chopra lookalike's moves
  • The silly hat the main guy wears to off-set his bushy Mallu moustache
  • The fact that it's a Mallu song but the refrain is in (slightly messed up) Hindi
  • All the disheveled guys in the group dance scenes who look like they've had a bit too much of Old Monk and Hercules the previous night and couldn't be bothered to take a bath
  • The credits - Babydoll Productions, Writer's Forum Alappuzha etc
  • The fact that they're absolutely sincere about the whole thing - there's something tragicomic about people trying their best to do something and yet appearing as complete losers
  • The comments - if you're Mallu and have a decent grasp of Mallu abuses, the comments are quite something
So now if you've put together a list, let's move on to the third part of the exercise: try to list out why you think those things are funny.
Putting on my pseudo-Hansonian (and maybe even pseudo-Han-san-ian) hat, let me try to put together some of the reasons why I think this might be funny (again, an incomplete and possibly not completely thought-through list) :
  • The sense of superiority that comes from looking at people who are trying their best and whose best is not very good, whereas one ('I') could obviously do better if one were to just put in a little effort - case in point: the Hindi pronunciation, the sucky production values, the jerky music
  • The 'there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I' aspect, where one ('I') knows that one may not have done a much better job and is glad that the camera was trained on them and not on oneself, which lends a sense of relief and hilarity (this combines with the earlier point, since one can say, 'what losers for allowing themselves to be caught on camera'). Case in point: the dance steps. I am ever-thankful that back when I was in college there weren't too many camera-phones around to record me dancing at 'Do Re Mi'.
  • The incongruities - Bushy moustache-meets-funky hat, dowdy phirangi women dancing, Mallus singing in Hindi (do not bother bringing up Yesudas, you know what I'm talking about here), Babydoll productions and the Writer's Forum being thanked - it's quite a mind-meld
  • Contextual humour - knowing Malayalam helps to really understand the depth of feeling in the comments, and anyone who's come in contact with Mallus would probably get the humour in the hatted guy's facial hair. I wonder how funny non-Mallus, or for that matter non-Indians would find this video
From the above list, I'd say I almost feel a little guilty about the first point, since they really, sincerely, think they're doing something good. And yet, if they were doing this ironically or as a parody (a la Borat or Wilbur Sargunaraj) it probably wouldn't be as funny.
So what do you think? What were you laughing at? Leave a comment, please.
And if you want homework, analyze this.


  1. they're trying to be cool by copying what other people have done (and looked cool). and fail, and nothing begets laughter as much as that.

    this is pretty much it. they might trying their best but it's missing the point altogether.

    I don't really find that Wilbur dude funny incidentally. Probably because it's a way of gloating over the less than mediocre sort of stuff a la "Silsila".

  2. Isn't it strange that we find it funny when people try too hard to be cool, or even just try too hard to do something they are obviously not good at? I suppose there's some kind of explanation from evolutionary psychology for that.
    Did you find the other aspects of it funny - the incongruities etc?
    As for Wilbur, I did say earlier that I thought this video is funnier than his brand of parody, although he's actually trying to be funny whereas these guys want to be taken seriously. Another example would be Kannagi Ohlsson and maybe to some extent also Doctor KC Chaudhury (though he knows he sucks, he just still enjoys singing).

    Quirk of human behaviour, I suppose.

  3. Doc Chaudhury is awesome because like you said he knows he sucks.

    Lester Bangs statement regarding Jim Morrison is apposite:

    "Jim Morrison? He's a drunken buffoon masquerading as a poet! Give me the Guess Who. They have the courage to be drunken buffoons, and that's what makes them poetic"...