The age of comediennes

deccan chronicle  | gautam sunder

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Female stand-up comics take centrestage as the demand for live acts picks up in the city

Chriscilla

Ever watched Amy Schumer, Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman bring the house down during a comedy roast and wonder why there aren’t more of them around? That’s exactly the sentiment which has echoed through the Chennai open mic arenas in the recent past — and heralded a new breed of fearless, hilarious, no-holds-barred performer: the female stand-up comic.

Though they are few and far in between, these funny ladies do mean some serious business when they come on stage — be it a bout of self-deprecation or taking potshots at the ubiquitous inflated male ego.

Says 23-year-old full-time comedienne Shireen Saadiya Ali, who runs the YouTube channel The Other Inbox, and has been performing at open mics and other shows for over a year now, “The common misconception is that if a girl is hot, she can’t have a funny bone in her body — and if she is hilarious, she’s got to be fat and ugly. Guys, seriously? That’s the perception we are trying to break, and thanks to my age, I have plenty of material to use: from parents and marriage talk to facing rejection from boys and jobs. Of course, jokes about our periods make up 90 percent of content too! Audiences are surprised sometimes to see a girl talk so brashly, but eventually, they start laughing.”

Travel writer and marketing professional Vaishnavi Prasad, who also shoots comic sketches and skits for Ventuno Comedy, says that she blames and thanks the movies for inducing the idea that girls aren’t funny naturally. “Movies are full of sexist humour, but also, they are the reason some women today are considered funny. Prepping for a show means always observing, taking down notes, which turn into exaggerated humour scripts. Jokes about porn and sex are the easiest to do — but my sets are varied, and I talk about feminism, animals, my family, politics and what not! People expect me to take the side of a woman, but I throw them off by supporting men!”

And there are even teenagers in the fray, such as 15-year-old eleventh grader Chriscilla Sridhar, who took to the stage in an all-girls comedy night first and has been hooked since. She says, “I was definitely nervous at first that they would laugh at me, not with me! But soon, the crowd even started interacting with me. My routine is all about PG humour since I’m a school kid —  humour inside the classroom, mothers not knowing to control the remote, and so on. I want to start a YouTube channel soon as well.”

But there are challenges —such as not having a female mentor or any real source of inspiration, and starting from scratch, says aspiring entertainer Niveditha Prakasam. “The fact that at most events, it’s mostly a group of guys making fun of women...I mean, we have a sense of humour and can enjoy it — but when we give it back to them, the response isn’t quite so enthusiastic! Having said that, no one  discourages you, which is a great thing.”

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