What is it that makes comedy so important to us?
Truth is comedy. In Hindi, there’s a phrase, meethi churi, which literally means “sweet knife”. That’s what comedy is. It cuts deep sometimes, but you can’t help laughing anyway. That’s effective comedy. Audiences can be very perceptive. So when you’re doing a joke where your truth and your convictions are all in place, the audience will know it and will join you in that joke wholeheartedly.
Audience reaction usually determines the success of a comedian. How much do you think about your audience when you’re writing?
Earlier I’d censor myself in some places, but you never know what will work. It’s really trial and error most of the time, so I stopped censoring myself. It’s really about your truth, and my truth is that I hate bikini waxing. And since I’m a girl, I can get away with a lot more stuff, because it doesn’t come off as nasty.
How does being one of the handful female stand-up comics in India influence the kind of material you write?
It’s who I am. I can’t possibly write material from the perspective of a 17-year-old Russian ballet dancer with Down Syndrome. I need to have my own perspective. I’ve been to shows where guys are like, “Make me a sandwich already,” or, “Where’s my b***job?” and the audience thinks that is hilarious. With audiences today, the biggest punch line is still behen***d. So we have this joke among comedians that when you’re having a bad set, just yell behen***d in the middle, and they’ll be like, “Oh yeah, ha ha, that’s good!”
Would you consider yourself a generous laugher?
Yes! Though audiences here are still a little hesitant to laugh, but the moment one person laughs, everyone thinks, “That idiot laughed. Let me join in too.” I don’t mind being that idiot. The comedy club we have in Mumbai, the Canvas Laugh Factory, is designed in a way so that the audience [is] in the dark, because it’s easier to laugh at an off-colour joke that way — anonymously.
Do you think comedians tend to have a different take on things than most people?
I was the youngest kid in the family, and was overweight. And that too at an age when you want people to like you, but all I kept thinking was, “Oh my god, people are laughing. All right, use this!” So I just think that you have to train your mind to think in a certain way.