After almost a year, Kanan Gill has returned to the comedy ‘screen’ with his Netflix special Yours Sincerely. The comedian is known, and loved, for his observational humour. Be it the innovative sketches with Kenny Sebastian, the ‘cow on the road’ analogy in Keep it Real, or the stomach-splitting segment about letter writing in his recent special.
Gill often tends to be nostalgic, and relays a part of his life through his comic pieces. Hence, it is only natural that Yours Sincerely is built around the premise of a letter from his childhood, which he discovered in his thirties. It enlists the goals (directives, rather) that his 15-year-old self hopes he has achieved in adulthood. It is like a time capsule you do not remember burying, but one that has effectively found its way into your busy adult life – bringing with it a touch of lost innocence.
The several proposed goals in the letter are read out by Gill through a startling caricature of a boy whose voice box has only just been hit by puberty. Speaking of being athletic, he mentions his rapid weight gain. Standing at 100 kg, he calls it less of a weight and more of a “shipment”, suggesting that cargo be measured in “Gills”.
While referring to his neutral wardrobe to hide the paunch, the analogy sheds light on how quickly childhood innocence is beset by the misplaced shame of adulthood. When he jokingly nudges the audience by saying that they may have noticed a slight increase in his size, he quickly follows it up with, “I am medically not allowed to exercise.” How often do we feel the need to justify our act of simply existing? To acknowledge our proportions, to make the audience feel more at ease than ourselves?
The curiosity that is the human being is best described in his segment about drinking water. There is a glass on a stool beside him, while he rants about people turning into “Pavlovian dogs”. He refers to the apps which have become mainstream amongst those of our generation, ones that remind us to drink water at regular intervals. Every time the phone beeps with that particular sound, we (the obedient ones) turn to our sippy cups. Gill refers to it as “a piece of software for people who are secretly plants”, confused as to why adults need help to figure out what to do when they are thirsty.
In a part that may come off as insensitive to some, Gill talks about suicide. In that, he calls it a “return gift”, following it up with a statutory warning about getting help when you have such thoughts. That segment is perhaps the crux of Gill’s enterprise, the journey from childhood into the lap of depression. A lot of traumatised individuals use humour as their defense mechanism, joking about the pain in order to take the edge off. This segment is a most honest representation of how depression is easily veiled in laughter. Putting this segment in the last leg of the show might represent how we begin in innocence, writing letters, setting kind goals, being a part of experimental (terrible) bands, then moving on to overwhelming life pressures and depression. This way, Gill’s show represents a journey that most of us have made.
Observational humour aside, Gill’s confessions also lead to some great advice. With a beautifully crafted video game analogy, he talks about the “side hustles” that we miss or ignore when we focus simply on finishing the race. We miss the bite-sized happy moments, when we strive to set a perfect time record. It is reminiscent of all of the times we have missed dinner with family in order to work late for a big account, or scheduled work trips on our kids’ birthdays, or gotten so worked up about marks that we forgot to savour what we were studying. It encourages one to live, in the true sense of the term, instead of hopping from milestone to milestone.
While some of the jokes were stretched too long, or did not land quite right, the set was warm in its scrapbook nature – one in which we all saw bits of our younger days. The segments about letter writing, hernia, dog breeding, and airlines are his defining bits, rife with hilarity, and not a single punchline is missed in either. Gill has consistently strived to add a bit of magic to the everyday, and ensured that our “time pass” is always worth our limited time.
Meghalee Mitra is a littérateur and hopes to change the world, one word at a time.