Azeem Banatwalla: Casual sexism has no place in stand-up comedy today

Gear up for a night of laughter as this Mumbai-based stand-up comic prepares to take the stage in Hyderabad.

Paulami Sen Published :  20th July 2018 03:58 PM   |   Published :   |  20th July 2018 03:58 PM
Azeem Banatwalla photo

Azeem Banatwalla

Azeem Banatwalla, from East India Comedy, has garnered a loyal fan following over six years with his intelligent brand of comedy. The Mumbai-based engineer-turned-writer-turned funnyman will be performing in Hyderabad this weekend, after a while for a show titled, Take a Pause with Azeem Banatwalla at Black Dog Easy Evenings. Before the show, which will be held at Artistry, Hyderabad, we caught up with him in a candid chat about women, “casual sexism” in comedy, why India needs more comediennes and his most “surreal” show till date. Excerpts:  

In India, stand-up comedy has grown from strength to strength in the last few years! But is it still difficult to get people to pay to watch shows?
Yes, it's harder now more than ever because Indian stand-up is now freely available on YouTube and there's new content every week, so people just want to sit and watch at home or on their phones instead of going to a live show. But that's where the real experience is. You cannot compare YouTube to a live show.

Is it sometimes difficult to be funny in this country, given restrictions, when it comes to political or religious comedy?
Sometimes, but if you're good at your job as a comedian you can get away with most things!

Who are the performers he looks up to? Who would he pay to watch?
I've paid and watched most of my idols already, like Eddie Izzard, Bill Burr, Jim Gaffigan, Ed Byrne. I'd like to watch Jim Jefferies live someday.

Where can one draw the line when it comes to comedy and casual sexism?
I think we've reached a space where casual sexism has no place in stand-up comedy. We've all been guilty of it before, and I'd like to believe I've learnt from my mistakes.

Stand-up comedy in India at times seems like an old boy's club. What is your take on this statement? Do we need to encourage more female stand-up comics?
Absolutely. It's a lot harder for girls getting into comedy because of the social stigma attached to it. We've now got some great new girls who are absolutely smashing it in the Mumbai comedy scene. It's great to see.

What has been his craziest show ever and why?
Crazy for all the right reasons, was performing at the Global Citizen festival last year. I got to perform just before Coldplay, in front of 80,000 people. It was surreal!

Tell us about your association with Black Dog. Also, we hear that you are coming back to Hyderabad to perform after a long time. Excited?
I think Black Dog Easy Evenings is a great platform for both artist and audiences. It's a great way for people to take a pause, unwind, relax after a long day and watch a good show. I’m performing in Hyderabad after a while so it's good for me to get out of the house and get some work done! The audience in Hyderabad is amazing and always energetic so I love performing here!

What can the Hyderabadis expect from his show? New material on the cards?
This is the first time I will perform on the Black Dog Easy Evenings platform and hence my content is fairly new, hasn't been done outside of Mumbai before. The material is very different from the earlier stuff I have done, but I guess that's what happens as you get older.

Biryani after the performance?
Not a chance! I am not a biryani person at all. I'll be searching for a good burger, please!


This Saturday. At 7 pm.

Tickets: Rs.499 onwards.