It's ladies' night out!

Laugh out loud

It's ladies' night out!

An explosion of laughter, mild chuckles, once-in-a-while-nods — that is a familiar scene at stand-up comedy shows. Women too are entering this male-dominated field. Proliferating venues, a cosmopolitan culture and possibilities through ‘open mics’, ‘sketches’ and ‘impovs’ have changed the perception of comedy as an alien art form. Yet, the voice of many women stand-up comics in the City remains to be heard.

Although a few women have shattered glass ceilings with confidence on stage, the idea of a woman who is outspoken continues to ruffle a few feathers. These comediennes, who are alter-egos of their personalities during the acts — hyper-active, lively, funny and bubbly — agree that more women have to be recognised in this field.

Punya Arora, with her ability to laugh at herself, says that she was lucky to receive family support when she stumbled into stand-up. She recalls that she was the only girl on the scene when she first came in. She took a break in between and was glad to see more women stepping into comedy when she came back to the field.

Shrirupa, another comedienne who considers these solo-acts as a cathartic experience says, “Nobody discouraged me outright not to go for an open mic night but a lot of them found it weird. People wondered if women could be funny.”  Richa, whose sketches with another fellow comedienne called, ‘Adventures of Richa and Sumukhi’ touches on mythology, social evils, politics and hushed-up fantasies. They got a number of people talking.

Richa feels that the industry is still male-dominated because women are not yet ready to take the plunge into the art. “Most acts take place during the nights and especially in clubs. Girls don’t get the permission from their families. Also, most women don’t know where to start or and how an ‘open mic’ works. Awareness of such issues will help more women enter the scene.”  Shrirupa adds, “I’ve known girls who have left in between an open-mic since they can’t stay back late. A lot of them are also intimidated in the beginning. If they start to joke about something in a public forum, they are scared that people may perceive them as loud.” The entry of more women in open-mic events, who churn out refreshing plots, helps the scene flourish. 

Punya breaks the myth that there is a need to use abusive language in stand-up comedy. “I don’t use cuss words because that’s just not who I am. Women don’t have to be intimidated because of this as it’s a personal issue. The joke only depends on how well it is told.” 

However, reactions of women audience on jokes that range from mundane to the sexist also differ and depend on how relatable they are. While a woman enjoys a joke within the four walls of that space, it may be considered derogatory if she cracks the same joke elsewhere. Richa and Shrirupa recall instances where women have told them that they feel empowered and happy after watching their shows. “Most of my jokes centre on men and women,” says Shrirupa. “Not in an insulting way,” she is quick to add. “I once joked about how women use their handbags for multiple purposes and I got the husbands laughing in the audience.”

The hilarious quartet came together for an event called ‘Ladies Night’ . Though they agree that such events do help spread the word, they believe that it shouldn’t be the only way to recognise women stand-up comics.  

But they are extremely optimistic that more women in the stand-up comedy scene will be like a dozen rays of sunshine. To fuel the growth of comediennes, Punya feels that women have to be recognised as artistes. “We ask even hosts to introduce us as artistes rather than women comedians.” Richa wishes to start women open-mic nights in the City next month to help ladies speak in a comfortable space and Shrirupa believes that more women will enter the scene by December. Shrirupa adds, “Comedy shouldn’t be looked at as an alien space and one that is beyond the boundaries of women. Women are incredibly funny and can help comedy attain the cult status.” And they all hope that more women bring their own colour to the contour of comedy.

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