When standup comedian Radhika Vaz came to India in 2010, the scene of standup comedy had “just begun”. Having done improvisational (improv) and sketch comedy for 10 years in New York, she forayed into standup comedy because she wanted to perform in India.
“For doing sketch and improv, I would have required the whole group performing with me to come to India. So I just started doing one-woman shows when I came here and eventually got tagged as a standup comedian,” says 43-year-old Vaz.
Alongside her stint as a standup comedian, Vaz also writes for columns in some leading national dailies in India, runs a YouTube channel, and has won accolades like Gotham Awards for her web series ‘Shrugs & Fats’.
She is known for her outspoken views on gender roles and feels that women are “second class citizens”. “I try making jokes that convey the message that we are living in a sexist society. I don’t understand how privileged people say that women are equal. I think that there are a lot of struggles that women face and it is not just the men who are holding women back, women themselves have internalised this feeling of being held back,” the Mumbai-based artiste tells Metrolife.
In one of her recently uploaded videos on YouTube, Vaz — on the occasion on Karva Chauth — elaborates satirically on how only women who stay at home should be fasting for the well-being of their husbands, and not the ones who are working.
Effortlessly, she performs upfront acts that are able to tickle the funny bone, yet convey a powerful message. “Comedy is just like music. Comedians use this medium to express their views in a different way, a way that is subverted in most people in the audience. We voice their frustrations and express those feelings which they are not willing to express,” says
Radhika, adding that in India, it is because of the youth that the standup comedy space is growing. On being asked what is lacking in the industry here, she says, “Freedom of speech.” “As a comedian, I don’t think my government can protect my freedom of speech. Comedians are trying very hard to maintain a free structure, but they are attacked quite easily by the authorities all the time.”
She is now looking forward to ‘Magnetic Words’, a storytelling session at Magnetic Fields, a three-day music and arts festival from December 9 to December 11, to be held in Alsisar, Rajasthan. “I am excited to be with a community that is not specific to comedy. I will talking about my book ‘Unladylike’ and will also perform a small act in order to see how the audience responds,” says Radhika.