‘You’re a funny woman’ has to be one of the most condescending sentences I have ever come across. Whether I’m talking about not wanting to change my surname after getting married, or just mentioning that a woman isn’t another woman’s biggest enemy, I’ve heard this as a response more often than I can remember. Literally, the only women who enjoy being told they’re funny are the women in the comedy business.
From taking the bra out of the closet and onto the stage to smashing the patriarchy, one unwoman-like comment at a time, the Indian women of stand-up are leaving no stone unturned in making some noise.
And rightfully so! Comedy, especially stand-up, has largely been a male-dominated field (how surprising!). But recently, several female comedians have started to take over the comedy scene in the country.
Unlike other professions where women strive to be seen as balanced and pragmatic as men, the women in comedy aren’t trying to be anything like their male counterparts.
They are upholding the female gaze – everything from cab rides to pee talks is up for conversation.
These women are bold, they are sarcastic, they are funny, and they are unrelenting. Here are ten women in stand-up who are not only changing the comic landscape, but are also resizing it and painting over it to make it their own. They’re not looking for a niche, they want a room of their own (Virginia Woolf much?), and more!
Women in the changing face of stand-up comedy in India
1. Aditi Mittal
Every time I hear about Aditi Mittal, it takes me back to the first time I heard her name. She was one of the participants of AIB’s widely popular roast of Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. The only female comic on the panel (for the sake of diversity), Aditi was unapologetic and unabashed in her commentary. And she continues to be so.
Her comic timing is immaculate, characters intense (Dr.Mrs Lutchuke will stay with you even when you don’t want her to), and confidence indelible.
From online dating to jumpsuit struggles, there are many a topic Aditi would like to spill the beans on.
2. Neeti Palta
Neeti Palta started posting YouTube videos in 2013, and had become a pretty popular name by 2014. But if you think that is when you first came into her work, you’re probably wrong. This fitness freak of a comic was a writer for DD National’s Galli Galli Sim Sim. This former art director is also the writer of the Bollywood flick O Teri.
If you’ve watched Neeti perform, you know there is an enduring quality about her. It’s almost like she’s talking to a friend, making conversation with about a hundred people, and urging them all to laugh with her.
From condom ads and good news to Punjabi weddings and fauji parents, this ‘Almost Sanskari’ comic has a little something to say about everything.
3. Kaneez Surka
If you haven’t heard about Kaneez Surka, you’ve probably been living under a rock. This former host of The General Fun Game Show (you’re missing out on a gem if you haven’t watched it) is renowned for her improv comedy routines.
Her insane expressions and crooked Hindi are the twist that her glass of comedy wants, but doesn’t need.
This former NRI takes a dig at NRIs, their accents and nakhras and proudly claims she hates them, even though she used to be one. If Kaneez Surka thinks children are annoying, she’ll say it (and she did!).
4. Supriya Joshi
Whether it’s unleashing her frustrations on breasts, bras, and periods, or leaking women’s best-kept secrets (drinking alcohol being one of them), Supriya Joshi has a voice, and she wants it heard. This beauty blogger/comedian/Supaarwoman is making waves on social media with her humble persona and in-your-face humour.
When a man makes a generalisation about a woman, she doesn’t go ahead and defy him, she just proves it right to annoy him.
Vocal about issues like online bullying and body shaming, her Instagram reels will keep you hooked to your screen all day.
5. Prashasti Singh
If we talk about the women who are redefining the comedy circuit in the country, it’ll almost be sinister to leave Prashasti out of the conversation. Every time she gets on stage, she weaves her audience into her narrative. Even before they know it, every person is transported to her small-town life.
This IIM Lucknow graduate is not only taking over the internet with her innocent charm and stark honesty, she is also making us fall in love with her livid characters.
From relationships to Ravish Kumar, this comic is touching all the right notes (even the wrong ones) with her audience, no strings attached!
6. Aishwarya Mohanraj
When Aishwarya drools over Vicky Kaushal, all of the internet drools with her. A former writer at Son of Abish, Aishwarya is winning hearts with her relatable, light-hearted videos. Probably the only YouTube channel that features disclaimers for relatives, she has also ventured into vlogs and live streams.
Not sure how to deal with your mother asking about a pregnancy test kit that slipped out your bag? Take your lessons from Aishwarya.
If you’re new to Aishwarya’s Instagram page, make sure to look out for her “Chee yaar!” reactions. Also, how cute are she and her boyfriend!
7. Sumukhi Suresh
Comedy is a complicated concoction of a quirky script, edgy delivery, and spontaneous timing, and Sumukhi Suresh knows how to ace it. If her twitchy reactions took over your heart in her stand-up routines, her sketches will leave you gasping for breath and asking for more.
From the eccentric Behti Naak to the not-so-eloquent Pushpavlli, Sumukhi dons many feathers in her hat.
If she wasn’t relatable enough, her antics on how she escapes conversations with her mother will definitely take you home.
8. Urooj Ashfaq
When people talk about cab rides, I snore; when Urooj talks about cab rides, I snort! And so does everyone else in the audience. With her subtle sense of humour, Urooj will take you up for a laughter ride. One of the youngest female comics in the circuit, she has already worked as a writer at Son of Abish and Die Trying among others.
From casual relationships to casual conversations with her grandmother, Urooj’s life is made up of sad stories with funny retellings.
Whether it’s voicing her opinion, complimenting the audience, or flipping them off, Urooj thrives when others get uncomfortable.
9. Aayushi Jagad
Leave it to Aayushi Jagad to make breaking news out of her dating life and still be funny about it. Popular for her unabashed sense of humour, her username on Instagram gets her quite the attention (safe to say she enjoys it too!).
She makes a voice for the under-representation of queer artists in the Indian comedy scene and advocates their cause because she believes that change is on its way; she only wants it here faster.
This ‘Comedian-ish’ jokes about arranged marriage in her Gujrati family, but also finds a fitting reply for misogynistic men in her cheeky sketches.
10. Sumaira Shaikh
You’ve probably laughed at Sumaira Shaikh’s jokes for far longer than you might be aware. A co-writer for both Pushpavalli and Son of Abish, she has a unique writing style.
Probably the one comic in the country who can make you laugh without even letting a smile creep up on her face, Sumaira will give you a piece of her mind on everything from cabin crew to Coronavirus.
If her hard-hitting scripts aren’t enough, her aggressive style and stark reactions will almost make you fall out of your chair.
For years, women have been laughed at for dabbling in professions that are dominated by men. While that hasn’t ever stopped us, the star female comics are getting an extraordinary kick out of it. Lewd comments and unabashed remarks? Let the laughter riot drive you deep into crazy-town!
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