Ideas editor Kiran Manral spoke with comedians Neha Dhanani, Dwijal Mehta, Supriya Joshi, and Sonali Thakker at this month’s Bombaywaali at Sodabottleopenerwala at Phoenix Mills yesterday. The women spoke about gender diversity in the comedy scene and how they use comedy to talk about issues close to them.

Sonali Thakker spoke about how she has grown up in a typical Gujarati family, with 14 people living in the same house. She studied to be a CA, and standup happened organically, she says.

Standup started as a way to help Sonali blow off steam. She wanted to tell people how much she hated being a CA. She spoke about how she went for an open mic where comedian was saying some thing and before he said the punchline she thought of it. She started going for open mics after that

“In a joint family you are restricted in what you can say. Here there were no inhibitions, I could say anything,” she said.

To do comedy, one needs to have a thick skin because there is constant rejection: Sonali Thakker

Supiya Joshi never thought she would do comedy.

“I never thought I would do it because I had low self esteem. I started working at AIB and people said I should try standup,” she recalled.

A comedian called Rohan Desai put her name in for a show called Tial Ball. She says that she was scared because the audience had more than 300 people. She did it and it was amazing, she says. Standup comedian Eddie Izzard was in the audience and she met him afterwards. He encouraged her to keep going.

“It has been a great place for my self-esteem. I’m saying things people are able to relate to like issues related to PCOD etc. It has made me realise that I am not suffering alone. I love reaching out to people,” she said.

Why Do Women Think They Aren’t Funny?

Women inherently feel that they aren’t funny because of years of men telling them they’re not, said Joshi.

Dwijal Mehta spoke about how the bias is societal.

“If you are on a date, the man is supposed to be funny. Even if he’s not funny, you are supposed to laugh. If you don’t have expectations from an entire gender, eventually the person will feel like ok I am not good at this. It takes a lot to break out of the mould,” Dwijal Mehta

“People like to think that women are only funny to other women. That’s their bias. When a man cracks a joke that is to do with other men, even women laugh.”

Joshi said, “I have a feeling that women are funnier than men. We have so much self-doubt because of years of men telling us we are not funny.”

Sonali agreed and also pointed out how men have used humour as a way to get others to listen to them.

“Women have sharpened other skills. So men don’t expect women to be funny,” Sonali said.

Where Does the Material Come From?

Supriya spoke about how she tries to be honest with her sets. She speaks about her own experiences, whether it be with PCOD or dating as a fat woman. The more honest you are, the more people relate, she says.

“I talk about what I feel,” said Sonali. “I know my life and that’s the most I can be honest about.” She said that everytime she talks about sex, she has faced resistance, and she doesn’t think a male comedian would face the same amount of it.

Eventually people will laugh if it is funny, she says. Once a producer told her to go on stage with makeup and heels. She told him that the only thing she will go on stage with is her jokes.

“Women are other women’s greatest allies. We should recognise that and appreciate women for whatever they do,” said Supriya Joshi.

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