Making someone laugh is an unfunny business. It involves appealing to the audience on a social, emotional, cognitive, and cultural level. Christopher Hitchens, the famous British critic, opined in a column on Vanity Fair that women aren’t funny. Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Sarah Silverman are some of the female comedians who proved Hitchens wrong.
For years, comedy has been a male-dominated field, but there have been visible changes in India’s standup-comedy scene.
Here are some female Indian standup comics who you should take notice of:
She started her career with CNN-IBN’s The Week That Wasn’t. Born and raised in South Africa, Kaneez attended Rhodes University from where she has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Psychology. Kaneez worked with Vir Das’ venture, Weirdass Comedy, and was also a regular in many of All India Bakchod’s videos. She is part of an improv group called “The Improvisers.” Kaneez is a judge on Amazon Prime’s comedy reality show Comicstaan. She is also a part of the Netflix special titled Ladies Up, where she is featured alongside other female comedians.
When asked about female comedians in an interview, Kaneez said, “With more women coming, we're not seeing people for their gender anymore. We're just like, 'oh, that person's funny'. We're normalising, neutralising and getting judged on how funny we are now not whether we're men or women, and that's going to happen when more women come in.”
She started her career as a comedian after quitting her full-time job in 2015. Sumukhi worked at a children’s library, and as a chef before the standup comedy bug bit her. She joined The Improv, an improvisational comedy show in Bengaluru, when she was working. During this time, she had performed in hundreds of shows across various cities.
Sumukhi’s first video was Anu Aunty-Engineering Anthem with entrepreneur Varun Agarwal. Her claim to fame came from portraying a character called ‘Sumukhi Chawla’, in a show that is considered as India’s first mockumentary-style YouTube series. She also has a popular show on Amazon’s Prime titled Pushpavalli, and a one-hour web show called Don’t tell Amma.
Along with comedian Naveen Richard, she has a Prime Video show ‘Go Straight Take Left’. She hosted Comicstaan’s first season in 2018 and was one of the judges on the second season of the show.
A regular at comedy clubs in India and the UK, she is one of the earliest female stand-up comedians in India. Aditi was invited by the BBC for its 100 Women Conference in London, in 2013 and 2014. She was one of the founding members of two parody award shows titled Ghanta Awards and Filmfail Awards.
She entered the Indian standup comedy scene after quitting her job in New York. Aditi was one of the panellists in AIB’s roast featuring Bollywood artists and celebrities. She has featured in many shows including Ripping the Decade with Vir Das, Fools Gold Awards on Comedy Central India, Bollywood OMG on Channel V, Phenking News with Cyrus Broacha, and many more. She was also featured in the American documentary, Stand-up Planet, alongside American and South African comics.
Anu Menon is better known to many of us as Lola Kutty, her popular character on Channel V. A Keralite by birth, Anu grew up in Chennai. She studied theatre at the London School of Drama. She moved to Mumbai when she realised the city was known for its active theatre scene. Her big break came while playing a character with a heavy Malayali accent, which landed her the “Lola Kutty” role. Lola TV, her show, won three Golds and one Silver at the PROMAX and BDA India awards.
Her stand-up video ‘Wonder Woman’ was released in 2019 on Amazon Prime. She was also featured in Vir Das’ Prime Video series titled Jestination Unknown. Anu has also appeared in the movies Quick Gun Murugan and Happy New Year as Lola Kutty.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)