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Laugh Till You Cry with Aditi Mittal

Aditi Mittal- on the easiest way to make an audience laugh

Aditi Mittal shares her creative influences, a love for Key and Peele and tells us what its like to perform to 10 year olds.

Aditi Mittal at the comedy store mumbai

Aditi Mittal  is here to challenge the notion that comedy needs to be silly (although she will be the first to share a slapstick joke if it gets a laugh!).  But her performances are just as likely to be about the way women are treated by the Indian media, the inherent (gallows) humour of the ongoing elections or to use a literary reference that takes the audience by surprise. Consistently rated as one of the Indian Stand Up Comics to ‘watch out for’,  Aditi deserves every bit of the accolades she receives (and if you-like us- are a fan of her Twitter feed, then every one of the 23,000 followers she has!)

We chatted with her on mail while she was on road last week- and her responses- if anything- make us love her even more!

Thanks for talking to us Aditi. What’s life like on the road for a comedienne? 

It’s fun. I love meeting people, and I’m lucky I can find a fairly decent comfort zone wherever I go. In my opinion, the four most important people at a performance venue/comedy club are in this order:

  • The bouncers
  • The waiters
  • The bathroom didis
  • The sound/technical people

They will take care of your safety, your food, your need to pee and your sound when you’re on stage. In my humble opinion these are my most basic needs. So I end up making friends with the people at the venue almost every time. And let’s face it, anyone coming for a stand-up comedy show is someone looking to laugh, and what’s better than a room full of people like that? Though it used to get incredibly boring to go from hotel room to venue to flight while travelling, but now I’ve found ways to keep myself entertained (and even productive) during those down times.

Do people expect you to be funny all the time?

Hahahaha. Yup. That doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I’m not really out to prove anything to some drunk guy/Twitter account that’s yelling at me to “say a joke yaar.” You don’t show someone that massive boil in your armpit at a party coz they introduced themselves as a doctor, do you? :D

What makes you laugh in real life? 

It’s my favorite defense mechanism, so I end up laughing at the most horrible, awkward times. In school I used to get giggle attacks during assembly time, needless to say, I was punished most of the time.

My mom, dad and brother are all characters as well. I recently colored my hair blue and my mother walked into my room and demanded I take a shower because I had obviously not washed off the colors from holi. My dad and I bond enthusiastically at dinner over Tamil movies dubbed in Hindi with names like “Main Hoon Wanted” where we intellectually analyse them and reward ourselves with second helpings for our clever observations.

But here’s a list:

  • P.G Wodehouse is comfort reading
  • Andaz Apna Apna and Hera Pheri are of course two cult comedy films that I can watch anytime, anywhere.
  • Tina Fey’s 30 Rock and Bossy Pants are permanently on my shelf.
  • Also, I’m a HUGE Seth McFarland fan so rabidly into Family Guy and American Dad.
  • Archer and It’s always Sunny In Philadelphia on FX
  • Have recently become a HUGE fan of Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean), so I’ve been watching BlackAdder an episode of which is perfect remedy for the blues.

Do you believe certain topics should be taboo for comedy? What would you never joke about?

Comedy, as they say, is about the oppressor and the oppressed. When the joke is about the oppressor then tends to bring people together. When it’s about the oppressed (poor, disabled, minority groups) then it tends to be construed as malicious because the comedian is seen as then belonging to the group of the “oppressor” and therefore becomes an “outside”. There is however, this great sketch by American comedy sketch artists, Key and Peele.

(Editors’ Note: We are slightly obsessed with Key and Peele too! In fact this recent article by them inspired this question)

 And these things  makes you wonder about the fluidity of the definition of the “oppressor” and the “oppressed.” Because that’s just how power works, someone is oppressing someone while being oppressed by someone else and political correctness makes everything even more complicated.

To me, comedy, the need and ability to laugh, one of our most powerful survival skills as a race, is sacrosanct. Nothing is above it.
It’s about truth, and if you, as an individual identify it as your truth, then you can say whatever you want (and it has to OBVIOUSLY be funny) and more importantly, if you believe it to be your truth.

Who are some of the stand up comics that you really enjoy? Someone you think is terribly overrated?

Hannibal Buress who I have seen a lot of recently is fantastic. I had the fortune of watching Mike Birbiglia live last year as he performed his show ‘My GirlfriendsBoyfriend’ which was just pitch perfect. Key and Peele are amazing. Alan Partridge, Eddy Izzard, Hugh Laurie, Elayne Boozler. Johnny Lever, Juhi Chawla, Jim Carrey, Wayne Brady and of course Charlie Chaplin are all comedians I really enjoy watching. At home, Sorabh Pant and Anuvab Pal are fantastic. They’re both a combination of character and writing that’s insightful as well as hilarious. Varun Grover (who has also done lyrics for Gangs of Wasseypur and Aakhon Dekhi) and Cartoonist Rajneesh Kapoor are also two comedians who invariably make me laugh.

Not anyone really. Can’t resent people for being at the right place at the right time you know?

Are there any other comic voices- from literature, from music, from the cinema- that really speak to you?

I’ve obsessively devoured Manto and Desmond Morris in the past few weeks. As a kid (and as an adult, I’ll admit), I read a lot of Goosebumps (the horror book series by R.L Stine). Its my favorite ‘so bad its good’ thing. Also the book series spawned one of my favourite blogs- www.bloggerbeware.com, where they hilariously review every book from the series. I enjoy reading graphic novels. The combination of art and writing in that medium inspires me. I’m currently reading the  American Vampire series by Zack Snyder and The Walking Dead and Sandman series are personal favourites.

Culturally we come from a society that is still reticent about a lot of issues. Have you ever been asked to tone down on a particular topic or issue? 

All the time. But it does not mean I’m going to do it na?But from my personal experience, especially  in public shows, the biggest punchline is still a “bhenchod” or a generous “chutiya”. But we are still placed in front of audiences that don’t know what to expect.

Your favourite crowd?

Any audience that wants to laugh is my favourite audience. :D I personally LOVE travelling to Bangalore for shows- the weather, the city, the people, and I’m an early sleeper so even the 11 o’ clock deadline at night sounds perfectly awesome to me. I’ve performed in front of the First Lady of the Indian Army as well. I think that was one of my favourite shows. It was at a brunch held in her honour. All the army wives were dressed to the nines. They weren’t laughing loudly, but all I could hear was their jhumkas and bangles jingling as they stifled their laughter and their shoulders shook. At the end of the show, she walked said to me with a completely straight face “Thank you for ruining my kaajal.” She had been laughing so hard and trying to control it at the same time that she had tears running down her face bringing her kaajal down with it. It was a HUGE honour.

The worst comic performance you’ve ever given!

I did one recently where we were NOT informed that there were going to be 10 year olds in the audience, so I was already out of my target market.  I recalled all my Chhota Bheem and Dora the Explorer references and tried to talk to one of them. I asked him what his favourite TV show was and he goes “Sanskar.” I had NO idea what to say to a 10 year old who loves Sanskar.

The one event from recent news which is just screaming for a good joke

The elections, obviously. The Twitter brigade is out in full form this year and I love it. My TL is always furiously entertaining.

The one person from recent times who is just screaming to be skewered/roasted by a good comedian

Roasting someone also implies that you have a huge amount of affection/respect for the person and that’s why you’re even making the effort to write jokes about them. I think Aamir Khan could do with a nice masala maar ke roast.

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