In a raucously funny hour-long Netflix special The Things They Won’t Let Me Say, stand-up Aditi Mittal gets straight to the jugular half a minute into the show. If you are thirty, single and an Indian woman, you are like the Tupperware container at the back of the fridge, thunders the bespectacled 30-year-old and single comedian. ‘You wonder if it is still good,’ she mimed as the audience pealed with laughter.
At the outset of her new show in town, Global Village Idiot, Mittal is gearing up to speak about her travels across the globe, commenting on the heady concoction of how Indian travellers are perceived outside and how foreign tourists are perceived in India. As she believes, if the world is a global village then everyone in it is a fellow villager. Humour will become the great equaliser and if we laugh together, we will be able to understand each other and become kindred spirits. Also, she noted, the responsibility of making people laugh has always been the onus of the village idiot. “That idiot is me.”
During the past three years, she has travelled to all the major stand-up festivals. “From Monteux Comedy Festival in Switzerland to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I have been lucky to do them all,” she said in a phone interview. Incidentally, she has performed Global Village Idiot at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Mittal claims to have been asked several questions during her travels and stays abroad; ranging from ‘Are you Hindi and do you speak Hindu?’ to ‘Do you have an elephant?’ To the latter question (asked by her college roommate), her reply has been in the affirmative. “I would say that I use the elephant for drop and pickup to and from school,” she chortled at the recollection. Mittal plans to puncture holes in the stereotypes which people have about India by using her own experiences. And as an Indian comedian, she feels the need to tell about the truths of Indian diversity and beauty. According to her, everyone in India has a different take on humour which changes every moment. “However, regardless of the state, class, caste, colour and gender, the ones who have the least amount of power laugh the most. And when the powerless laugh, power structures will get dismantled.”
Then there is her experience as a woman stand-up in India. She considers herself having grown up along with the stand-up comedy scene in the country. It has been almost a decade in the industry and sadly, women are still looked at differently. “It happens in all professions, doesn’t it?” she asked. “Men can be jerking off on stage and it is considered hilarious but women talking about boobs is a different thing altogether. Comedy has always been a male bastion and these are our realities.” Mittal talks of the trollers following her on social media and the vile comments that are posted against her. Paraphrasing Margaret Atwood she said: Women are afraid that men will kill them. Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. “Stories will save the world especially if women tell their stories.”
With platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and serials like The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, wouldn’t people be more receptive to women comedians? “Remember,” she said, “Mrs Maisel is fantastic but fictitious. And what happens on Netflix and Amazon Prime is not the reflection of our cultural attitudes. Have you seen mainstream Indian television shows?” Maintaining that one show cannot make the change as too much needs to be done, Mittal hopes more people will get into the field. It will make more people aware of stand-up comedy and quality will come to the forefront. “I think I am the luckiest person in the Universe because I get to do what I like.”
What: Global Village Idiot
When: January 27,
Where: Mother Tekla Auditorium, Brunton Road