by LAUREN CODLING
COMEDIAN Sindhu Vee has asserted that her heritage should not be an aspect of her comedy that makes her “different” or more relevant to one community than another.
The stand-up performer, who is of Indian heritage, said she does not stop to think if certain audiences will “get” her material concerning her family.
“It never occurred to me, and it still doesn’t, that I’m talking about an Asian family,” she told Eastern Eye. “It’s my family. I don’t see this colour and I don’t see that colour.”
She explained, for instance, that jokes regarding her mother harassing her should ring true with most people, regardless of their ethnic background.
“Of course, it is wonderful to have a certain community be like ‘this is totally about us’. But when I’m gigging somewhere in Kent, where perhaps there are no Asians in the audience, people are still like, ‘I get it.’
Everyone has a family, and everyone has a mother who probably harassed them at some point,” she said.
Vee is currently hosting the BBC Radio 4 podcast Comedy of the Week and performed at the GG2 Leadership Awards last month. Her upcoming comedy project, Sindhustan, will be premiered on BBC Radio 4 next year.
Growing up in Lucknow and Delhi in north India, and a five-year stint in the Philippines, Vee said she was inspired by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan and American actress Carol Burnett.
“I don’t think I could have done comedy without Bachchan and Burnett and that’s funny, as they do sketches and that isn’t what I do,” she said.
The former investment banker called her entrance into the world of comedy a “fluke” and something she had never expected, nor planned to do.
“A lot of people had said I was really funny,” she recalled. “I had never seen live stand-up. I went along to the Funny Women’s Workshop in 2012 and they told me I should apply for the awards and I did. The first time I was on stage was in the heats, so there wasn’t much thought going into it.”
She described herself as being “deranged with nervousness” at the experience – she cannot remember any of the jokes she told or if anyone laughed.
“I remember having a very big drink,” she smiled. “I’m surprised I didn’t pass out. I don’t remember what I talked about. My friend videoed it, that’s how I know. All I remember was thinking ‘I cannot not do this again’.”
Five years on, and with a much higher profile, the mother-of-three said her children aren’t particularly interested in her job – they just see her as ‘mom’. But they are more aware of her growing popularity on the comedy circuit, such as after an encounter with a fan on the Tube when she was with her teenage daughter.
“[My daughter] was like, ‘are you famous?’,” Vee said. “She was a little bit impressed. But it isn’t something that comes up much. [My children] don’t walk around saying ‘oh, how is your comedy?’ They are more like ‘meh, whatever.’”
Family is a frequent topic for Vee’s comedy. She refers to her children’s use of hashtags within their conversations, her pet Labrador who resembles a “mutant donkey” and her mother’s frank sex talks.
Talking about challenges she has encountered in the industry as a woman, Vee said she had not been discriminated against or harassed, although she is aware it exists and does not want to dismiss the notion that it happens.
“If there is anything worth learning now, it is that every industry is rife with a fair amount of sexism,” she said. “I don’t think comedy is immune to that.”
Her advantage, she believes, could be due to her age and the fact that she spent 13 years at home raising her children. They were “glorious” years that made her feel she had something that men did not have, adding a dimension of confidence to her personality.
“[However], I’m not suggesting women don’t do stand-up until they are 40,” she said. “It is very important to establish that I don’t feel [sexism] because of the particular nature of my approach into comedy. I think as a woman, I have a responsibility: if I see it, I will do something about it, talk about it or report it.”