Photos: Christina Joyeeta
Raba Khan – a well-known video blogger, YouTuber and comedian – made her mark at the 2018 Dhaka Lit Fest as a panellist, alongside a number of famous writers and poets. Known for her satirical videos, she was invited to the panel “Women and Wit”, with Fariha Panni. The session began by addressing struggles in the relationship between women and wit all over the world, touching on how women are not expected to be funny in our patriarchal society. People always appreciate a man for being funny but when it comes to a woman, she is termed a “goofball”. “Women are not desirable when they are funny,” says the 19-year-old Raba, who has her own cult following on Bangladeshi social media and is a rising star among the youth of Dhaka’s varied urban culture. On the other hand, there is an immense pressure on men and their need to be humorous or entertaining.
Questions were raised on social media about her place in such an event when it was clear that Raba would be attending DLF as a panellist. She commented on the lack of women all around the world in the comedy entertainment industry. She said that there isn’t anyone she knows or could look up to with a career in comedy, whereas there are many male comedians like Hanif Sanket, Naveed Mahbub and Mosharof Karim, just to name a few. Since she hasn’t come across any woman who pursued this line of work, it was twice as challenging for her. There will always be people who won’t take her work as having any importance. She also questioned who else they should have brought on this panel to talk about this specific topic.
Later the session diverted to the ever going clash between humour and seriousness. Fariha Panni asked the audience – “Why can’t someone be serious and funny at the same time?” – which the audience countered by saying how people who use sarcasm in their remarks are hardly ever taken seriously. What people fail to realize is that through a sarcastic tone one can easily take on issues that are difficult to address otherwise. It’s a way of telling the truth in a much lighter manner, without coming off as confrontational.
Raba said that there isn’t anyone she knows or could look up to with a career in comedy, whereas there are many male comedians like Hanif Sanket, Naveed Mahbub and Mosharof Karim, just to name a few.
When asked about the stereotypes in our society that she addresses in her videos, Raba says, “I make these stereotypes to break them”. She wants to change these stereotypes that are present in our society by making people laugh. Some of her comparisons can seem a bit far-fetched, but purely for entertainment purposes. She asserts, “I try to make my videos entertaining and exaggerate things. Without hyperbole it’s hard to emphasize the message”.
In a country like ours, being a woman and going through daily activities can be a challenge in itself, let alone be a female comedian creating content for social media. Quoting from a person in the audience, “Women and wit go hand in hand”. It is certainly necessary to talk about this in a platform like DLF. This segment was slightly different from others at DLF – light, relaxed and much more interactive. By getting Raba Khan to the panel it was easier to catch the attention of the younger generation. Raba’s inclusion by the organisers was a way to connect with young people. It’s important in getting messages out that would otherwise have been dismissed as being juvenile. It served its purpose well, as evidenced by the lack of a single vacant seat in the auditorium. Hopefully, it’s a start in breaking stereotypes and inspiring more women to take up comedy.