Aditi Mittal—Getting Back To It
Netflix comedy royalty to perform at Projector X: Picturehouse
For International Women’s Day, we had the privilege of talking to the three Queens of Asia Comedy. We got to know about how they’re getting back to what they do best—spreading joy — and how they bring a piece of home wherever they go. This is part one of three interviews.
I don’t know about you, I like a little bit of wokeness in my comedy. I love the acts by John Oliver in ‘Last Week Tonight’, or Trevor Noah on his eponymous show. Even Ali Wong is breaking how we look at womanhood with her bracing take on her journey into marriage and motherhood. But Aditi Mittal knows that’s not the only way to make comedy in these heady times.
‘You know, I honestly have started my career just channelling my experience as a human woman,‘ she said.
Aditi is no stranger to speaking her truth. She’s one of the first female comedians in India, a country that gets touchy about almost everything. But she went on stage and started talking about sanitary napkins and singlehood anyways. Inspired by the likes of Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig, she quit her job in New York, moved to India, and started to share her biting wit to the delight of many. Since her first foray into comedy, she has not one, not two, but three comedy specials across Netflix and Amazon. The Times of Idea billed her as one of India’s Top 10 Stand-up Comedians.
Suffice it to say, the pandemic has yet to put her on the back burner. Now, she’s back at it with the Queens of Asia Comedy at Projector X Picturehouse. We catch up with her as she gets back on the road again.
*The conversation below has been edited for clarity.
You’re re-starting your touring again, what are you most looking forward to?
“Now, here’s the thing. It is only appropriate that I because the last show I did before the world locked down for the pandemic was with Joanne Kam. And so it is only appropriate that as the world opens up, one of my first international shows is also a show with Joanne Kam. I am very excited to perform.
The thing I am most looking forward to is that moment when, as a performer, you transition from the darkness of the backstage to the full-blown lights of the stage and you can hear the audience in the background. I am really looking forward to the hit of dopamine and adrenaline that’s going to flush my brain the moment that happens. So, yeah, that I’m really excited about.”
Where is the best place you’ve stayed when you’re on tour
“My favourite place when I’m on tour to stay in is, of course, any hotel room that’s not a direct threat to my existence. Haha! But I think my favourite spot is, you know, after the show when all the comics get together in one of the comics rooms and we discuss how what worked and what didn’t, and the audience’s reaction. That space is my favourite one to be when I’m on tour.”
What was it like when you first started touring and talking about your material?
“So when I first started touring with my material, I was, of course, terrified, because I was like, okay, you know what? This is what makes people laugh in my home country, but I wonder if it’s what makes people laugh in other countries as well. And it blew my mind to realise that, you know, human existence has so many crevices where we can find things in common or where we can learn from each other.”
When did you first realise that you can use comedy to speak about gender equality?
“I didn’t know that you could use comedy to talk about gender equality. I still don’t know whether you can use comedy to talk about gender equality. I think comedy is one of the most powerful mediums to say just about anything. And, you know, I honestly have started my career just channelling my experience as a human woman. And the fact that they are the same, if not similar, in the rest of the world is the cool thing about it.”
How do you incorporate intersectionality, as well as the experiences of diverse groups of women into your comedy?
“You know, I do try to keep in mind intersectionality by being sensitive to people whose lives I know nothing about. I’ll be honest, I don’t try specifically to channel anybody else’s experience because I’m afraid that I will not be able to speak the truth about them. So I make them my own experience. I talk about my own experiences.
The fact that they become or find relatability and universality is the cool thing about this whole thing. I guess the idea is to be intersectionally aware so that you’re not hurting anyone, but at the same time, know your place in the intersection so that you can speak truthfully from it.”
What impact do you hope to have on your global audiences?
“You know, I think I’m now becoming jaded. I don’t know if I’ll have an impact on global audiences by any chance, but I want them to find me funny. I want them to go home thinking, oh, my God, that girl was ridiculous, and we had such a good time. The impact I want to have on global audiences is that, you know, after they finish clapping for me and enjoying themselves. That they go in with that feat, that they go home with a feeling of light-heartedness and joy. It doesn’t even bother me if they don’t remember my name or who I am. If I just made them feel happy and good about themselves; that’s the global impact I’m looking for.”
What advice do you have for other comedians who are interested in using their platform to promote positive social causes?
“First, focus on being funny. Let people see the social change in it. You don’t think about social change. Right? And I think that it also comes from nurturing in your own mind a mindset where you think about social change, you think about speaking truth to power through your own stories or through the things you observe in daily life, because you can’t decide the impact of what you’re going to say.
Let people see the social change that you are talking about. Let people decide. Let the audience feel that. But for you, it has to be jokes first.”
What are the 3 things you must bring when you go on a tour that reminds you of home?
“One is my silk bonnet for my hair, which I wear when I go to bed at night. You know, it’s sort of this silk blue silk bonnet. (And I started wearing bonnets about three years ago.) And I love it because it reminds me of tucking myself into bed at home with my dogs by my side and the fan at the perfect temperature. So that’s one thing I love carrying.
The second thing I love carrying is lavender oil, because I always put like, a couple of drops of lavender oil on a pillow wherever I go and just before falling off to sleep again. It’s just a very calming smell. And it reminds me of home now because of my home. My pillows and bed smell of lavender oil as well.
The third thing that I love carrying, is the spice haldi (turmeric). It’s very commonly used in Indian food. I just carry it with me wherever I go because it’s one of those things where it reminds me of home. It’s supposedly a cure-all, where you add it to a bit of milk and then your throat clears up. And if you ever have a cut, you just dab on a bit of it onto your wound and your wound gets clean and heals faster and all that stuff. So I always carry a tiny bottle of turmeric wherever I go.”
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