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Rediff.com  » News » Jeremy McLellan: The comedian who took on gau rakshaks

Jeremy McLellan: The comedian who took on gau rakshaks

May 13, 2017 13:11 IST

'I'm used to getting abuse online, but this was different in both speed and volume.'
'I would ban them and they'd create new profiles.'
'It was also in Hindi, so I had to have friends help translate all the stuff they were saying.'
'The American funnyman tells Ranjita Ganesan about his first brush with 'Hindutva trolls' and his regular run-ins with Trump trolls.

Jeremy McLellan

IMAGE: Jeremy McLellan is a funnyman from Charleston, South Carolina, whose material deals largely with minority issues. Photograph: Kind courtesy @JeremyMcLellanComedy/Facebook

 

If defenders of cow vigilantes and anti-Romeo squads had more experience with humour, they might have known it is rarely advisable to heckle a stand-up comedian.

Some of them received this wisdom on the Internet after attacking Jeremy McLellan, a funnyman from Charleston, South Carolina, for highlighting violence by the extremist groups on his Facebook page.

The 30 year old says he responded the way any good comedian does -- by trolling them back and posting screenshots for his fans.

The first of his posts involved a BBC article about a Muslim man who died allegedly after being beaten by gau rakshaks in Rajasthan.

'Gonna eat a hamburger in his honour,' McLellan wrote, setting off a chain of events.

While the post was shared more than 450 times and liked by several thousand people, it also invited death threats and hateful messages.

"I'm used to getting abuse online, but this was different in both speed and volume. It happened very fast and it was a lot," the comic says in an e-mail.

"I would ban them and they'd create new profiles. It was also in Hindi, so I had to have friends help translate all the stuff they were saying."

He by turns joked and debated with his India-based attackers.

To some, he said the 'steaks are high' and their threats were 'udderly disgusting', whereas with others, he engaged in serious discussions on religion and ethics.

'You're allowed to think certain animals are sacred or forbidden to eat, but you can't kill humans to protect them,' he argued.

The comedian came up with Indian catchphrases in the process, including 'Jai shri comedy' and 'Jeremy se pangga nahin hai changa'.

McLellan has the unique distinction of being a Southern Christian comic whose material deals largely with minority issues.

A man with pro-liberty and anti-authoritarian views, he says it is now a particularly difficult climate for political comedians.

"Emotions are high and more and more people will attack you if you say something they don't agree with."

In a subsequent post, he talked of lynchings by anti-Romeo squads.

His page is a mix of serious articles and Photoshopped memes, where, among others, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif feature frequently.

The comic is made aware by fans about news that matters to them, and which is sometimes given less coverage.

He became curious about the South Asian community when he used to work with people with intellectual disabilities; his clients included a Pakistani Muslim.

He is a regular now at Muslim and South Asian comedy gigs in the United States.

His focus on these topics also comes from a need to differentiate himself. "Every political comedian seems to be doing the same kind of material, which is why I try to concentrate on stuff others aren't talking about."

He hopes to dispel some misinformation about minority communities in his home country. "It's one thing to learn about Islam from the Internet or books. It's another to actually see and hear what it means to people and how it functions in people's lives."

His stage routine involves stories about religious differences and his interactions with various cultures: His first tasting of biryani when he ate all the elaichi by accident, accompanying a Pakistani man with autism through airport security, and about a desi auntie trying to trick him into announcing he had converted to Islam.

The young comedian's experience shows that fundamentalism, no matter which side it comes from, is essentially the same.

His "Hindutva trolls" claimed he was being funded by Muslim groups, which is something he is used to hearing from Trump supporters as well.

Since he is Christian, McLellan has since referred to himself as 'alleged member of the Muslim Cousinhood' in his Twitter bio.

He also goes by 'liberty bhakt' now.

Ranjita Ganesan
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