Female stand-up talking about bold topics still tends to raise eyebrows: Neeti Palta
Neeti comes from a writing background in advertising and TV – ex-Head Writer for Sesame Street USA’s Indian venture, Galli Galli Sim Sim.
From the life of a woman in India and Indian idiosyncrasies to current affairs, comedienne Neeti Palta brings a ‘female perspective’ to the English stand up comedy scene in India. She was voted as the best Stand Up Comic at the Oz Fest and was India’s first Stand Up to perform at Melbourne for the prestigious Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2013.
We catch up with the comedienne, who was in Hyderabad for a performance at Black Dog Easy Evenings, about sexism in comedy and her upcoming projects. Excerpts:
Tell us about association with Black Dog Easy Evenings?
After a long day of work, it’s all about taking a pause, unwinding and taking time out to enjoy life. And what better way to do it than with comedy at Black Dog Easy Evenings, where you not only laugh but pause to think about what is being joked about. All comedy has certain home-truths at the centre of it.
As a comedian, how do you deal with the obligation of being perpetually funny?
Actually more than me being perpetually funny, people around me tend to feel the pressure to be perpetually funny!! Some of them quote WhatsApp jokes to me and then magnanimously tell me “Use them in your show”!!
Is there a dearth of women, particularly in the entertainment sector, being funny on screen/stage? What is your opinion on this?
This skewed ratio of male comedians vs female is actually not limited to India. It’s a global phenomenon. I guess it has to do with a particular set of challenges that female artists have to face vs their male counterparts. In my case, my parents were worried about my safety, given the late nights and travelling alone to all corners of the world.
Also, what kind of a role does gender play in your choices of jokes or brand of humour? Do you think the audience gets uncomfortable even today when a woman talks about topics like sex or masturbation?
Every comedian brings his or her experiences and observations on stage. Mine are about life as it happens to me and about the people in it. So I guess being a female, my perspective is seeded in my gender to some extent. But then there are various other topics that are not gender specific. I have seen audiences evolve a fair amount from when I started doing comedy. Female comedians are more accepted but we continue to be a bit of a novelty factor. Also yes, given how sharply the society defines gender dos and dont’s, a female touching upping bold topics still tends to raise eyebrows.
You performed alongside Russell Brand at the Comedy Central Chuckle Festival three years ago. How was the experience?
It was actually quite surreal. I feel he was probably briefed extensively about what might not go down so well in India! So I felt he was more himself off stage than on!
What are your future projects we can look forward to?
I plan to tour my solo “Not Quite Sanskari” extensively across the country. I am writing another solo with all my wicked thoughts in it, and the most immediate project that I’m dying to talk about, the channel won’t let me till they make an announcement! (Hint! Hint!)