IN EARLY JULY 2014, the comedians Tanmay Bhat, Gursimran Khamba, Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi approached Only Much Louder, or OML, an artist-management agency and events organiser, with their most ambitious idea yet. The Mumbai-based quartet—collectively All India Bakchod, or AIB—already had a substantial fan following, primarily on the strength of their 40 or so YouTube videos and podcasts. They told OML that they wanted to organise a roast: a form of insult comedy, in which a celebrity is invited to an event and then subjected to all kinds of ribbing by performing comedians. “We always wanted to do a roast,” Tanmay Bhat told me over the phone last month. “The format was always appealing to us. Every comedian wants to do it.”
In the United States, an invitation to be roasted is usually regarded as a badge of honour, a sign that a celebrity has attained the highest reaches of fame. Donald Trump, Pamela Anderson, Hugh Hefner and, recently, Justin Bieber, are among those who have been deemed worthy of being thus humiliated. In India, however, apart from one show in early 2014 organised by the comedian Vir Das, in which the actors Ranvir Shorey and Vinay Pathak were roasted by a panel of comedians including some members of AIB, roasts hadn’t found any takers.
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