Issue 13, Pseudoversary special: Interview with Aditi Mittal

Issue 13 marks two years of Pseudo Mag! To celebrate the Pseudoversary we interviewed three of our favourite writers and artists.

Anything a woman does is political. In a society that is built and encouraged to shame women, a woman being unapologetically herself becomes a political act. Aditi Mittal is making statements by simply talking about the “things they wouldn’t let (her) say”. She is a comedian, writer, and comic-trendsetter. Aditi makes us laugh in a way that makes us feel safe, every time she delivers a punchline or just bees funny it creates a shield of protection around us, and we keep going back to laugh at her. Every time a woman does something outrageous what they are implicitly doing is guarding and creating space for us, for other women. Aditi Mittal is needed, Aditi Mittal is crucial. And if you haven’t watched her perform yet, what are you doing? Go YouTube her / watch her Netflix special, just don’t miss her, or you’ll be missing a lot.


On the research that goes into writing stand-up comedy…

It’s something as simple as reading the newspaper on a daily basis. You infer a thought on the basis of a pattern you see. If you do something with mundane consistency you end up finding a lot in there. That’s what stand-up is all about. It’s about looking like you’re a really funny person who just walked in off the street. The naturalness is what stand-up is about generally.

On her comedic influences…

Every single one right now. Ali Wong is freakin fantastic. She has a show called Baby Cobra, where she is absolutely mind-bogglingly pregnant and her opening line is ‘Let’s get this over with cuz I have to pee in like ten minutes.’ Matlab main computer pe dekh ke I was like ‘Fuck! How can I give her a standing ovation right now?’

Who else? There’s a bunch of voices right now. There’s Norm Macdonald, Brian Regan.

Also, have you fucking seen Sarah Silverman’s Speck of Dust????!!! It will blow your mind! I adore Sarah Silverman. I’m telling you, I got up in the morning, and I put it on Netflix, thinking I’ll watch it while I do other work in my room folding clothes or whatever. I’m telling you, not one fucking piece of clothing got folded. After that I sat in the fucking unfolded clothes and I thought “I have to write. Holy shit. What are people doing on stage?!”

And Maria Bamford!! She is this fifty four year old woman who is absolutely fucking smashing. I have a picture of her as my phone wallpaper just as a reminder to myself that you can never be silly enough or funny enough.

On having to be funny everywhere as a comedian…

It’s a two pronged thing. There’s a pressure from the outside, people come up to you and say “Tell a joke, na.” And you’re like, arre yaar please yaar I’m at a party and I came to dance to Ishq tera tadpave not to prove to you that I do my job. So that’s irritating as fuck. Nish Kumar has this great joke where he says being a stand-up comedian is like being in a world where you never feel like you’ve done your job.

It’s kind of like if people approached a doctor at a party and asked them to diagnose stuff.

I don’t take pressure to be funny all the time. I don’t really give a hoot. Matlab bahot kaam hai. I am not here for 24/7 entertainment.

On the bilinguality in the Indian comedy scene…  

Having Indian thoughts in Indian English is very us. It is very usual for the few percent of urban population that knows english. Whether it is about something as complex  and crazy as religion or something as simple as deodorant, it’s normal for us. Also comedically, English serves such a great contrast, it’s almost like a set up. Because comedy, they say, is like painting a picture and then punching a hole through it. When you speak in English, you paint that picture, you dazzle and bedazzle. And that’s why ‘maadarchod’ and ‘bhenchod’ is so funny, because it’s in my brain ka language, it’s in my inner language, and it’s also such a severe and hilarious dismissal of this beautiful picture that I just painted in English. That’s how English and Hindi are working in the comedy scene right now.

I’m going to perform in Edinburgh in August, and I’m so pumped but now I’m seeing ki all the ‘madarchod’s and ‘bhenchod’s cannot be your ‘go-to’s anymore.

On why she chose comedy as a medium…

I didn’t choose it. I simply don’t know how to do anything else.

On the purpose of her comedy…

Making people laugh. If they are provoked to think about stuff, great, but hasee aani chahiye yaar.

Feminist issues that come up in my comedy is my life.I realized I am a feminist after I started doing comedy. Because people were like ‘What you’re saying is feminist for me’ and I went ‘Yeah? Okay!’

There’s so much to prod yaar in patriarchy, there’s so much yaar, it’s so funny yaar. To be in comedy and not talk about these issues is to be highly disengendered.  

On the characters she created through her comedy…

I have written some five new minutes for Lutchuke and I was thinking about how your character and what you say as the character are two different creatures. A character is a good way to say ‘I didn’t say that. This crazy person said that.’ It gives you a lot more freedom. I get away with saying a lot more when I’m in character, which I enjoy the fuck out of. People are much more forgiving that way.


On testing comedy routines…

I test my routines on my mom and my dad if they are around. A lot of the times they are dismissive as hell, which is my favourite reaction to get out of them. I never want them to be fully impressed with what I’m doing because then I’ll stop trying. So I run it by them. But I’ve become braver about taking it out to open mics. Like now I just freaking take out 5 minutes and I just go. I feel like it has the function of comfort—being on stage for a while. It’s all about the hours. It’s all about the time you spend doing it; you get better at it. It’s just the function of time.


On life as a stand up comedian…

I realised this ki life me agar kiss cheez me better hona hai toh woh ye hai. I don’t particularly care about really anything else, I’ll be so honest with you. I’ll write something and go and make people laugh. Night before last, it was a Sunday and I was like “No, no I’m not going out”, and I was sitting in my fucking pyjama and watching something and you should’ve seen my mom’s face. “Do you realise how lucky you are? And you’re fucking sitting there with that big ass fucking look of dissatisfaction on your face.” And I was like “Yes mom, yes.” I realised that my life is actually fucking amazing.


On dealing with unresponsive audiences and jokes falling flat…

One of the best ways to deal with itis to address it. Say it didn’t work. Almost always people will be like hehe (pity laughs). Ki haan nahi chala.


On Indian audiences…

After having performed abroad and having come back, I’ll tell you, the Indian audience is damn feeling wala. When we come together as a collective of humans, we are very generous with laughs, applause, aww. We are like clockwork. They’re not easier to please but they are very feeling-based. Even then Indian audiences are just so fucking open. That’s what’s so amazing right now about the market that we are existing in. Ki kuch bhi karo.

Everyone’s very expressive also. I was actually editing a video recently and the guy had rented out a 5.1 Dolby studio (I don’t know if 5.1 and Dolby is the same thing but I’m here in this technical place) and I went to see this and there were speakers all along the edge of the room because it was one of those studios. So laugh jo aa rahi thi woh itni realistic thi that I could hear a guy at the back go “No no no” while he was laughing. I was like ohmygod this is too realistic. The problems that we are having right now with audio is that people are repeating the punchlines after I’m saying it. This is what I love. Because it’s funny they just repeat it to themselves; I don’t even know why. They’re very expressive.


On dealing with internet trolls…

I think it goes back to that very old adage “It’s not about me.” It really isn’t about me. When a person is coming at you just to be vicious and to onslaught you, then it’s about them more than it’s about you.


On being funny while also being sensitive…

I don’t want to offend anyone. If I ever end up offending people, I am so sorry. But  I’m not directly out to offend you but I’m not going to like sit there and babysit you into not being offended. Woh bhi main nahi karne wali. I’m never out there to be vicious generally. The intention is to make them laugh lol. I realised this ki woh itna basic hai ki if you keep reminding yourself of that then all the high drama goes away. Hasi aai toh bas, chalo.


On breaking the glass ceiling as a female comic…

The truth is you’ve got to have blinders on and do exactly what you want to do. You boil it down to hasi aayi ki nahi. Everything around it disappears when you have that one point of reference at any given point of time. That is how I survived it. I’m so grateful I do stand up. I would’ve been dead in any other profession.


On hilarious responses to stand up comedy…

When I started out there were a bunch of strange things that people would come and say. Niti has some hilarious things about what people would come and say to her when she was on stage. It was always well intentioned curious. Like “Kya ho raha hai beta? Tum theek ho na. Itna loud chillana cheekna kyun?” Once I got asked “Are you doing this for the attention?” I said “Yeah. I’m definitely doing it for the attention.”


On books…

I’m currently reading Poor Economics. It is very interesting and  very detailed. It is one of those pop economics books. It is about how poverty economics is not the same as poor economics. I just started it day before yesterday.

Susanna’s Seven Husbands is my current toilet book. It’s the version with the novella and the screenplay. It’s damn interesting to see how it unfolded scene by scene.


Interviewed by Kimaya Kulkarni and Tanvi Joshi.

Article written by Kimaya Kulkarni.

Illustration by Sawani Chaudhary

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