It’s Not Funny: Of Pranks, Misogyny and Ableism 

By Muda Tariq 

WHAT makes a prank funny? The point in case is Red FM’s comedy prank call played on a delivery executive, ironically aired on International Women’s Day. In the prank, a popular Kashmiri comedian and radio jockey plays the role of a husband irked over his wife’s shopping habits, and the delivery executive is dragged into their argument. Had the prank call been funny, I wouldn’t be dissecting it, but here I am.

To begin with, the RJ plays an intrusive husband who needs to know who his wife is talking to and even forcibly gets into the conversation between the wife and the delivery executive. It only normalizes the stringent patriarchal surveillance of women by their partners or parents as an exercise of control over them. Adding to that, the comedian harps on a gender stereotype of women having notorious reputations as ‘shopaholics’ and ‘spendthrifts’. It implies how women have no agency over financial resources as the husband objects to her expenses and at the same time, by asking the delivery executive to deliver the parcel to her natal home, the husband implied that his wife has no rights over their home. It goes on to normalize aggression and violent husbands whereby the wife tells the delivery executive how her husband is holier than thou, and only sometimes reacts with violence out of anger.  Can there ever be a virtue in violence?

 Misogyny 1: Humour 0.

The prank is blatantly ableist using disability as a mocking comedy bait. The comedian makes jokes about the delivery executive’s speech impediment, asking him if he was talking through a pipe (twice), repeating gibberish, and complaining how he has difficulty comprehending the delivery executive’s words. The phenomenon of using disability for quick laughter isn’t new. However, the only time disability is funny is when a disabled person makes the joke; other times, making a circus out of someone’s disability is just cruel. People with visible disabilities might already operate from a place of insecurity and fear. Such jokes are then tasteless as it breaks a person’s self-confidence and affects their emotional and mental health. The prank was an ableist micro-aggression that communicated an insult.

Ableism 1: Humour 0.

The prank was received with a lot of criticism for its ableism online, so much so that the RJ posted an ‘apology’ on his social media handles. The RJ in his ‘apology’ video talks about how entertainment has always been his calling and that when he is writing his content, he only wishes to make the audience laugh keeping ‘decency’ in mind. He constantly reiterates how it’s beyond his imagination to hurt someone through his content and his motivations are to help people combat the stress and trauma. However, there is a thin line between offering an explanation for one’s actions and using those explanations to escape responsibility. Any apology is ingenuine when it displays a lack of compassion for people who are hurt and rightfully so.

One must never try to defend the indefensible – misogyny and ableism. Although it is normalized in our society, it’s still far from decent.

Needless to say, some people found the prank funny and defended it. However, that doesn’t make it right as our society gets a thrill out of poking fun at people who find it difficult to be a part of the mainstream. His content reflects the nature of our society and our society is misogynist, ableist, and classist. Popular creators like him need to be both accountable and responsible for the large impact they have on our society. Through his content, as he also emphasizes in his ‘apology’, he is reaching real people and influencing real lives, and with that comes a responsibility that has to be assumed carefully. This also extends to platforms like the radio stations which we listen to for information and entertainment. They need to take a proactive approach to ensure they are not catering to the existing ills in our societies or using that for easy laughter. People like the RJ should act as agents of social change or at least make an effort to create a safe space for people from marginalized communities. Such disparaging content only fosters discrimination against the already marginalized groups. The mystery of good humor is easy to decode – it shouldn’t have unfunny consequences!

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • Muda Tariq is a graduate in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi, and is currently pursuing a degree in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding. Email:  [email protected]

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