Bengaluru doesn’t need to be reminded to chill and laugh out loud. City folk have always given a thumbs-up to stand-up gigs — impressive turnouts and the number of women diving into the stand-up comedy scene testifies the same. In fact, ‘all girl stand-up specials’ are on the rise with the new year starting off with female comedy gigs and going strong as women stand-up artistes break barriers and pick hitherto taboo topics. With more and more female comics in the city, is this a lucrative space for women? Has the concept of gender equality arrived in this arena? What are the challenges? We take a deeper look.
“There has been better visibility of comediennes and comedienne-led shows, be it all female line-ups or as comic producers and curators. For every one person telling a new female comedienne that she can’t talk about certain things, there are atleast nine stand-up comediennes already talking about it. Which for a woman starting out in comedy is a good thing to see,” begins comedienne Shrirupa, who recently was a part of Funtastic Four, an All Women’s Stand-up Comedy Show held on January 1 at Jagriti Theatre.
While Bengaluru continues to be a very warm, supportive and embracing space, there is no taking away the negatives of being a woman comic in the city. The meatier roles in most cases are offered to male comics, believes Pooja Vijay, a full-time stand-up artiste who has been performing comedy in the city for the past two years. “Yes, the scene is definitely changing and things are looking up for women. But, at present, there is still a lot of male dominance, I feel. In fact, most corporate gigs and headliners for big shows are done by men. That is a little unnerving ‘cause we also need to be where the money is!”
Voicing a similar stance, Sumukhi Suresh, a popular Bengaluru stand-up artiste and actor feels women comics are often put in a box. “In all honesty, comedy despite having no barriers or rules, hasn’t gotten to being very gender neutral. I have personal instances where the crowd took a longer time to laugh at the same joke which when cracked by a male stand-up had audiences in splits. People despite being supportive, take a lot longer to accept a women on stage to crack them up,” states Sumukhi, who adds that putting female comics in a box is what needs to change. “We can truly say stand-up comedy for women has arrived when we are all called comics and not female comics. But that said, it’s a lot better in metros like Bengaluru, and is a field that can be financially feasible too.” On a concluding note, and brighter side, the city’s tightened security during gigs has helped, Shrirupa says, “I know the cops are there if I need to reach out to them. There is peace of mind knowing that safety, security and justice infrastructures in Bengaluru are easy to access and reach out to on social media or a toll free number. And, then there are the people of Bengaluru, who come together when something needs to be fixed. And this faith in the city, is what makes my life easier and empowers me to move around at all hours, even really late into the night.”