Funny girl serving up the truth

Deccan Chronicle.  | Jayanthi Madhukar

Lifestyle, Viral and Trending

Stand-up comedian Anu Menon believes in owning the stage, be it as a theatre thespian, an unlikely VJ or as a comic.

Stand-up comedian Anu Menon

What: Evam Presents Wonder Menon
Where: That Comedy Club, 2nd floor, Sherlock's Pub, 46, 4th B Cross Rd, 5th Block, Koramangala
When: March 9th (3.30 pm),
March 10th (2 pm)

Stand-up comedian Anu Menon described what she calls a good joke. It isn’t about being funny for the sake of being funny. “Stand-up comedy is about truth-telling,” she said. To tell her truth of being a working mom and wife to a merchant navy officer, Menon is coming from Mumbai for her show The Wonder Menon.  

If her name sounds familiar, think of a South Indian woman clad in a Kanjeevaram silk saree, big bindi, flowers in her hair - an unlikely VJ for a hip music channel. Miss Lola Kutty, her moniker for the show, interviewed top Bollywood actors, using a thick Mallu accent. Menon is quite thrilled that her alter personality Lola Kutty, an idea that she conjured when hired as a creative researcher, got a long innings at the channel. “Luckily for me, the channel took a risk,” she remarked. Lola Kutty kept the audiences entertained for eight years while giving Menon the avenue to dabble in theatre, her first love, so to speak.  

“I had done my masters in Drama from London and moved to Mumbai to pursue theatre,” she said. Menon talked of being directed by stalwarts like Lillete Dubey, Raell Padamsee, Rajat Kapoor and Shernaz Patel but spoke of the necessity of having to take up a job to support herself. In Lola Kutty, she found the support and recognition. “I used to have people telling me that I don’t look like a South Indian or I am a Madrasi like anyone else from down South. So, I thought to myself, why not play a woman from Kerala with gajras and all? Someone you wouldn’t see on TV?”

Playing Lola, which incidentally is associated with an attractive girl in Kerala, gave her a sense of comic timing. After taking a break six years back - “I had my son then” - she was back on stage. But this time as a stand-up comedian. A good joke, she ponders, is about doing justice to one’s voice. First, tell the truth. And then, put in the additions and exaggerations until it is funny. Menon writes the jokes and tries them on her husband first. “My husband is an engineer. So, it is good to know the perspective of someone who is not from the industry,” she said. Her son is aware of her job. “He knows I tell jokes for a living but sometimes, he tells me, Mom, you are not funny,” she laughed. “I tell him, just too bad, but others think I am funny.”

Throughout her act, Menon weaves in the roles a woman plays, “Women put pressure on themselves to do everything. And she wants to do it the best. Be the best mom, best wife, look good, have the best kept house...” There are riffs on being pregnant, on child rearing issues, on travels, and anything else that someone, especially a woman, can easily connect with. However, she insists that humour is not a “gender thing”. But as a woman stand-up, she admits having got unsolicited advice - don’t dress up too pretty, don’t look too posh...”I am like, what?”

She has been doing the Wonder Menon for a year and has polished it into a well staged act. The show in the city will be recorded for Amazon Prime; she talks of choosing a south Indian city as a nod to her roots - a Keralite brought up in Chennai. Still, she noted, “It is incredibly tough to capture a live medium and record it.” The essence of performing the show live is difficult to translate. Besides, predicting how the audience will react is one of the risks of the job. Menon usually talks to them between her riffs. Like the time she asked a female audience member if her mother-in-law liked her. “Yes,” replied the lady. Menon laughed and retorted, “There is therapy for delusion.” There is a grain of truth and a dollop of humour.  

Finding her style was paramount, especially in a field where there is an “explosion of comedy”. She postulates at least 4 comedy videos released on a daily basis. In India, stand-up is still about making viral videos. Hindi videos, she commented, will, by default, get more views and are more likely to go viral. A video in English and that too by a woman will occupy a niche space. But still, it is about being true to oneself. “You see, stand-up is the closest version of yourself.”