By Rahul Jain:
AIB recently went mainstream with their bi-lingual television program ‘On Air with AIB’ which has received a lot of appreciation, if their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are anything to go by. Luckily for the world, they follow a trend and have not provided a unique offering.
Satirical media has existed for quite a while, and although initially in the 1800’s it solely consisted of hoax articles peppered with the standard news, such as The Sun’s six article series now famously known as the great moon Hoax. The trend can still be observed on April Fools’ Day every once in a while. Even on television the trend has existed for quite a while with the renaissance movement in the UK known as Satire Boom under the most prominent and the slightly misleading name, That Was The Week That Was. USA got into the picture in the 1980’s with Not Necessarily the News. Print media hadn’t died as The Onion began an in-college print publication in 1988, shifted online in 1996 and is today one of the biggest satirical magazines in the world.
However, most of these forms were not directly linked to daily events and often curtailed the understanding of the people on the subject. They formed an interesting read, but unless you were updated on the topic at hand, you wouldn’t really gain anything from them.
The game changer was Jon Stewart. His stint on Comedy Central made him into one of the most credible sources of satirical comedy for the American population. He has never been shy of calling out the people who have tried to mislead the masses. He has also been brutally honest about the nature of his show- which is not a news show. He was also responsible for creating the Colbert report, another satirical faux news show.
The marked difference over here lies in the fact that this was not hoax, this was opinionated. The news being presented was real and the topics were hard-hitting and relevant to the current events. Another trend began as they always provided material on the basis of which they formed and presented their opinion and left no room for the misinterpretation in terms of the event itself. This was a massive shift in terms of usage of satire.
India has not been too far behind in the game. Faking News was founded by Rahul Roushan in 2008 as a news satire website focusing on publishing fake news, taking a jibe at the events and the society in general. The Week That Wasn’t was the sole torch-bearer for satire on Indian television and eventually it ran into trouble over the topic of the ban on Sri Lankan players in IPL.
While Trevor Noah is the successor of Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report is an offspring of The Daily Show, the spiritual successor of Jon Stewart is John Oliver with the HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. One has to give credit to him for creating ripples in the real world. For instance, in his popular net neutrality segment, John explained the ‘fast lanes’ concept which undermined the free and open internet. He went on to request the viewers to write to the Federal Communication Commission on the change which was one of the factors responsible for the servers crashing due to inflow of user comments. John Oliver brought along a number of changes that have enhanced viewer engagement, be it from a 7 month long incognito interaction with televangelists to pursuing individual tax forms to finding out the actual amount spent by the Miss America Pageant to providing citations for the references he makes. He provides credibility on every aspect through his satirical comedy, and the impact of it tells everything as he is on the Fortune’s 40 under 40 list.
So, when AIB came up with On Air With AIB on HotStar, they luckily were not trying something completely untested. They were simply becoming the next in line of a trend that is not old but has its roots deep in history. But they have still taken a shot at reinventing the wheel by having the show in two formats and involving the celebrity circle as much as they could. This is important as nothing in media will be cut from a different cloth. You will always be able to trace impressions of some other concept or show in something else. That being said, the popularity is always defined by the crowd they cater to, and AIB is leaving little to chance by ‘Indianising’ satire as much as they could. A lot of things are going right and luckily the onus of being a torchbearer is not on them alone. East India Comedy has also provided their support to the satirical movement in India with their online series EIC Outrage and started off with the most controversial topic in India right now- Beef.
It is important for India to have a checking system on its news as it sways the views of millions and satirical media has always meant to do that. While the foreign counterparts have had significantly more impact, they have also had a lot more liberty to play with. AIB is coming off a not-so-old fiasco over their roast and have not hesitated from bringing satire to the mainstream media which may very well go on to become the next Indian satirical superpower.