Web series

This YouTube comedy channel by women is truly a riot

Refinery29’s web platform features several winning comedy sketches about the things that matter to women – and men.

Looking at the immense talent and popularity of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, or Maya Rudolph, one can almost believe that it is a good time to be a woman in comedy. But while these women work towards making comedy an equal opportunity playing field for both genders, the male skew still persists. It is manifest in unequal pay, ridiculous interviews about cat fights, and needless competition among peers.

In such a state of affairs, Refinery29’s female-first YouTube channel RIOT rebelliously champions funny women. Creative director Julie Miller worked for Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central for years, learning from the talents of Tina Fey (30 Rock, SNL) and Jessi Klein (writer for Inside Amy Schumer). Miller’s pitch to Refinery29 highlighted the need for a truly niche platform for woman-centric content, one that can find a home most easily on the web. The website entered the digital media space this year with original web series such as The Skinny by Jill Soloway and Jessie Kahnweiler and the Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan starrer The Walker.

Miller is constantly involved in the creative process, producing content that tackles subjects that may be too true for comfort. For instance, a truth fairy (musical comedian Tessa Hersh) sings about hating being a part of your friend’s baby shower, using Instagram filters to make your life seem a little greener from the other side, or being completely paralysed when all you need to say is the word “No.”

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Tessa Hersh.

The series Womanhood features comedians Jo Firestone and Archana Nancherla in deadpan expressions and shoulder-padded blazers discussing puberty, tampons, menopause, the fears that come with the thirties, and mid-life crises. The series is shot as a parody of the 1990s television talk show format and has a scratchy VHS tape quality.

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‘Womanhood’.

Woke Bae is a series in which host Phoebe Robinson and a guest talk about crush-worthy male celebrities who are great at what they do. The list includes comedian Aziz Ansari, actor Mark Ruffalo and absolutely everyone’s perfect man – Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

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‘Woke Bae’ with Justin Trudeau.

Jacqueline Novak, author of How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from One Who Knows, discusses depression and anxiety with guest stars such as Lena Dunham. The series Report Card touches on crucial subjects such as the benefits of psychedelic drugs and herpes. RIOT’s latest series Expecting, by filmmaker Shaina Feinberg, consists of a series of sketches about pregnancy.

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‘Expecting’.

Additionally, RIOT Live features interview clips with writer Jessi Klein from an event where creative director Miller described the web platform as place to celebrate women who are radical and relatable.

The channel is new and not too many videos old, but some of them have already received thousands of views. It’s easy to see why. RIOT is a female-centric, woman-first web destination to watch out for. Subscribe away.

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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.