Indian stand-up comedy continues to gain popularity in India and worldwide as local and NRI audiences realize TV shows aren’t keeping up with what the modern country wants.
From just 15 comedians in 2010 to well over 200 in 2019, it seems everybody you know is changing their DP into a picture of them holding a microphone at the open mic.
Thanks to Facebook and YouTube and insanely priced internet access, Indian stand up comedy is also at the forefront of entertainment. Amazon Prime and Netflix are also looking at comedy closely as a way to continue to buy market share of the middle-class Indian consumer. It’s insanely cheap to spend on a Amazon Prime comedy special that produce a web series or a movie.
But how do you decide who to watch and what flavor is right for you? Which one is the funniest Indian comedian?
In a country as diverse as India where Hindi is king, the numbers clearly favor the Hindi comics. However, in years to come, we will continue to see a diversification of comedy in English, Tamil, Kannada, Punjabi and who knows what else.
But in the meantime, since YouTube doesn’t really allow you to sort the biggest videos, here’s a quick list of the most viewed Indian stand up comedians I know from being in the scene.
Best Indian Stand Up Comedians
The list below is based on the videos/artists I know of in the comedy space by YouTube views. If I missed anybody let me know. They’re plenty of other great Indian comedians in English, Tamil, Kannada and more.
Updated View counts: October 2019
So which are the best Hindi stand up comedy videos?
1. Zakir Khan (42M)
This video from the AIB Diwas festival in Mumbai arguably launched Zakir Khan into the mainstream.
Although it was hardly an overnight success and Zakir had been at it for years, the timing of his talent and exposure lined up nicely from this point onwards.
It’s easy to see why Zakir and Abhishek continue to be thought of as the best Indian stand up comedians because wow, they’re blowing the numbers out of the water. You probably also know Zakir from his Amazon Prime Haq Se Single special.
2. Zakir Khan (31M)
Continuing his hot streak from the same show, Zakir follows up by giving his fans more of what they wanted. Girls check, exams and studies check. Middle class comedy has never been so relatable to the Indian audiences.
Zakir eventually used these videos as a way to launch into the Great Indian Laughter challenge. He also used the phrase Sakth Launda which means to be a kind of flirtatious, non committing guy.
3. Zakir Khan (26M)
Taking home the gold, silver, and bronze in most viewed Hindi stand up comedian, Zakir keeps at it in this clip from Canvas laugh club in Mumbai.
4. Abhishek Upamanyu (24M)
Speaking of Canvas Laugh Club, the largest comedy club in India also launched the careers of many of the comics on this list. Unfortunately it shut down but hopefully, it opens soon, because of the number of views featuring its branding is insane.
One such name you probably know is Abhishek Upmanyu who along with Zakir probably has the most views of any Hindi stand up artist across the world. How many of you knew Abhishek also worked at Bain and quit that to enter the comedy world? How much talent and luck can one person have!
5. Abhishek Upamanyu (22M)
Respecting elders, questioning Indian middle-class society and more is all great in this clip from Canvas yet again.
6. Anubhav Bassi (20M)
The craziest thing about stand up comedy in India is that nobody has a linear career. This is not like engineering or medicine where the longer you work, the higher you are. Thanks to YouTube and proper timing, this video from a guy I never heard of (at the time) shows if you work hard on your sets for a few years and then time it right, good things can happen.
But they’re no short cuts, and I’m sure he’s also a gifted storyteller or communicator. But this funny video on exams and cheating and so on shows you also have to hit the right notes for Indian audiences (e.g. school, girls, middle-class life, etc..)
7. Manik Mahna (19M Views)
Similar to Bassi above, if you hit the right notes, have good jokes, a good audience and get a good recording with good audio, good things can happen.
8. Abhishek Upamanyu (18M)
Non-Veg Jokes Anyone?
India loves it’s YouTube, and there is one other Tube that probably gets most of its traffic from the subcontinent. Abhishek gives us insights into both.
9. Abhishek Upamanyu (16M)
Anybody who’s stepped outside in India knows the beauty of dealing with strangers.
10. Abhishek Upamanyu (16M)
Now that both Canvas comedy clubs have shut, the new big player with a very recognizable backdrop is the Indie Habitat in Mumbai. The comedy club is a great space to record and has probably taken over the Indian YouTube’s stand up comedy subconscious with its instantly recognizable backdrop. If you see a thumbnail from here, you will assume the quality is fairly decent.
Another very popular cultural reference in India is about the TV shows we all watch, and Abhishek continues to reference the right topics with the right jokes.
11. Kunal Kamra (11M)
After Kunal Kamra burst onto the scene by giving Habitat it’s first big viral video as well as himself with Patriotism
Amazon Prime Hindi Stand Up Comedy Specials
Most Indian stand up comedy in the future will focus on Hindi and Tamil as the streaming platforms look at what’s working on YouTube.
While we don’t know the numbers from Amazon or Netflix, or even comments to see what the audiences are enjoying, you can easily determine that based on promotions and what’s happening on the Prime Video home screen.
If you’d like us to list out the most well known Amazon Prime Indian stand up comedy specials do comment and we’ll throw in our recommendations.
Did I miss any on this list?
I hope we see more diversity both from male/female perspective as well as a language perspective, but it’s no secret that just like Bollywood, India loves its Hindi comedy.
What are your favorites?
Any other stand up comedians or funny Hindi videos (that would qualify as stand up) missing?
Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top (ENGLISH) stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.