By Nidhi Kinhal
In May, a panel of five male comedians and one female comedian discussed sexism in the industry. Many interruptions, boys’ club insights about being a woman in comedy, and the mighty dude revelation, “It’s not that bad, but it is bad” (thanks, Biswa) later, let’s face it- we have all been pretty pissed at the equality discourse in the comedy industry.
But here’s a little glimmer of hope. Three star comedians, Aditi Mittal, Daniel Fernandes, and Karunesh Talwar, came together for Fernandes’ recent podcast called ‘You Started It’, and had an honest, empathetic conversation around the pervasive issue. And it’s so good it makes me want to send them a huge, virtual hug.
It all started when Daniel asked, “why are we being dicks to our own people?” after hearing about experiences from women about men who complain of the “sexism card”, that women comics can’t wait to finish their set and flee, and how brands realise there are women in comedy only on March 8. Aditi, further, talks about how she’s asked the same questions over and over again: “I said whatever I had to say. Are you going to do something about it, or is this now, you want to keep rehashing the same thing again and again? The first step is acknowledgement”, she points out.
From this point, the podcast revealed inside-stories that really show how ridiculous it gets. “I think there are behavioural patterns that exist when there are only men in a room, which make women feel uncomfortable or unwelcome,” Aditi mentions. Karunesh Talwar, self-aware and badass throughout, got brutally honest. “The boys’ club? It exists. If you’re the kind of person who just doesn’t pay very much attention, and you’re a man, you may not even notice it.”
The three discuss stories of male comics asking newer female comics to “get back to me when you’re a real comedian”, confess their privileges and prior ignorance (Daniel apologises for a “feminazi” joke he’d cracked in an earlier video), and the insecurity and ostracisation around calling out other men. Simultaneously hilarious and incisive, they consider the solutions to this “vicious” atmosphere. While Aditi talks about listening to other women, and being mindful of what hurts them, Karunesh mentions, “The next time you see a male comic, looking at an opportunity that a woman comic has gotten, and you see them saying that this is only because she’s a woman? Just don’t be friends with that guy.” He publicly calls out a misogynist producer who had once called Aditi, “the best tits in the business”, and Daniel almost cancelled a show with the same producer.
It’s high time comedy in India became more progressive and diverse, and it clearly won’t happen until the men stop behaving like impulsive toddlers, who gossip about female comics while she tries to make a video. (Yes, that really happened.) You have to watch this refreshing podcast, and “get in on” the feminist bandwagon, because like Daniel says, “Life will give you many opportunities to not be an asshole. Just take them.”