Here’s a tip for all those who intend to catch Indian stand-up comedian Radhika Vaz’s show in Dubai on Friday at Ductac.
She’s a 43-year-old happily married Indian woman who has made a conscious choice not to have children. And, she doesn’t take kindly to all those well-meaning souls prone to giving her unsolicited sympathy or doling out anecdotes about miraculous, age-proof conception.
If you are still tempted, she will use the best weapon she has at her disposal: her humour.
“Right through my thirties, I had concern from other people about why I didn’t have children. For some couples, such questions can bring on so much pressure. But since I was a comedian, I was able to move on and see the humour in it. By seeing my show, women and couples who have been in such a position will be able to laugh at it,” said Vaz in an interview with tabloid!.
With her aptly titled show Older. Angrier. Hairier, Vaz, who was labelled India’s Wanda Sykes (the American comedian known for her blunt comedy) by The Huffington Post, is on a mission to take one for the women’s team.
Vaz, whose stand-up gigs involve couching scathing social commentary with jokes, dreams of gender equality and is willing to take a swipe at issues including hypocrisy against women, ageing, plastic surgery and more.
“My comedy tries to explore what’s going on the day-to-day society and make it as funny as possible,” said Vaz, who moved from New York to Mumbai in 2014 to pursue her love for stand-up comedy full-time. When she isn’t watching terrible reality shows, she writes her own jokes. And if you are wondering if the dubious distinction of her being India’s first female comedian is true or not, it’s not. While she may not have opened the ‘first female comedian in India’ account, she’s definitely one of the popular ones who writes jokes based on her experiences as an Indian woman. Excerpts from our interview:
What should we expect from your show Older. Angrier. Hairier?
I hope the audience in Dubai will have bladder control issues brought on by belly laughs. It’s my second one-woman show and is a show that talks about what we think about and live through as women, but don’t talk about it that much in public. One of the things that I will talk about is about how when a woman doesn’t want a baby, everybody has an opinion about it. Being an Indian woman at 43, I have often experienced it.
Has it gotten better for you?
People still go: ‘oh you are only 43’. There is always someone older that they know who have conceived late in life. It makes me wonder how does everyone have this aunt or a relative or a friend in their fifties or sixties bearing children? I don’t think people realise that often women don’t want to and it’s a conscious choice. But, they are concerned and have this ‘you-can-still-have-kids look’. I also love talking about how modern society looks at ageing. I am in my forties and earlier it was respectful in Asian culture. But in our modern-day scenario, being old is not such a great thing. It affects women more than it affects men. I want to take that contrast and make jokes about that. I touch upon the plastic surgery too and how it affects our lives. I also talk about how men can continue to marry younger girls, but somehow the reaction to an older woman with a younger guy is not the same.
Have you been asked to tone down the show in the UAE, keep in mind the cultural sensibilities of this region?
Absolutely. I have been told: No religion [jokes]. That works for me because it’s not my area of interest. No jokes that are of a political nature within the UAE: so it means I can make jokes about Rahul Gandhi, but I can’t make jokes about what’s happening in Dubai or locally. So, no local politics or making fun of the local people. And that’s fine by me because I don’t need to make fun of other people to evoke laughter. Also, there’s a little bit of concern about jokes about sex. I don’t make sex jokes, but I do make sexuality-related jokes that are gender-related. To that degree, I am in the clear. I will probably be more conscious about how much I swear. Also, sometimes I feel when my husband says something funny, it’s more accepted. Even if I said it better and more intelligently than him.
You are hailed as Indian’s first woman comedian. Is there any truth to that and do you use your gender to your advantage?
I don’t usually call myself a woman comedian and I don’t lead with that. The first woman comedian in India label isn’t true either. Probably, I was one of the first few. Stand-up comedy became popular in India in the last five years and it’s true that there’s a few of us who started around the same time. All of us keep getting labelled as the first woman comedian in India and we pass it along to each other. We hit the scene around the same time. Women in comedy in India is not that new, although we keep acting like it is. When I started doing stand-up comedy in 2010, I was advised to write what I know. I gravitate naturally towards to matters that upset me. Any hypocrisy or inequality upsets me. Even if any kind of minority (be it religious or sexual or gender) is belittled, that kind of attitude upsets me. I try to harness that into my jokes. The issues that I have faced as a woman find my way into my shows. But I don’t claim to be a feminist comedian.
Does comedy pay your bills?
Yes, now it pays my bills. But when I was 30, I had a full-time job in New York and did comedy shows on the side, I still needed a buffer for the income then.
Who has been your toughest audience?
I had a quiet, tame audience in Gurgaon, Delhi once. When they don’t know anything about me, they will either have a great time because they least expect my brand of humour or they will have a horrible time because their idea of comedy differs from mine.
What should we know about your brand of humour?
It’s definitely on the lines of comedians such as Chris Rock and Kathy Griffin. I tell you about the stuff that you are aware of, but I will give it my own twist. It’s not like I will just make fun of the Gujaratis or the Sindhis or Malayalis, but at the same time, it’s issue-based, but my prime goal is to make people laugh.
“The world needs to stop judging women. Have you noticed how we are judged the most? We never judge men so bad. Women carry guilt that men don’t carry.”
Vaz’s take on:
Kapil Sharma’s brand of humour: “He is a funny guy and his interviews are nice. But why doesn’t he hire a fat, funny woman instead of having a man cross-dress. It upsets me as a woman and a comedian.”
The controversial All India Bakchod Knockout Roast featuring Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Karan Johar and more: “With any set there were jokes that were funny and jokes that I didn’t care for. What I loved about it was that it made Bollywood accessible in a way that has not been made before. Two things stood out for me: they made fun of Deepika Padukone and her multiple boyfriends. She played along and we saw a beautiful, successful, young woman proudly laughing at this [expletive]. In India, we are so puritanical. Also, I loved the way Karan Johar put himself out there. He was ready to be made fun of about being gay. It was a big statement. It is sad and depressing that the government tried to censor the whole show.”
*Don’t miss it
Radhika Vaz’s stand-up show, Older. Angrier. Hairier, is at 8pm on February 12 at Ductac, Mall Of The Emirates, Dubai. Tickets, Dh150, Dh200 and Dh300
at ductac.org or platinumlist.net.