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Next Big Thing: Supriya Joshi on Raju Srivastav, Comicstaan & the Inspiration Behind the Douchey Siddhant Chlamydia

By Jaanvi Advani 14 August 2019

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Supriya Joshi, also known as Supaarwoman, was hesitant at first to do standup because she was convinced that “everyone’s funnier than me”. As (our) luck would have it, she ended up having the most incredible first open mic experience at AIB’s first Trial Ball back in 2017, which she was coerced into by her friend and fellow comedian, Rohan Desai.

With a life as dramatic as Joshi herself, the universe had a plan this Mumbai-based comic may not have seen coming. She got validation from the king of whimsy and craft, British comedian Eddie Izzard (!!) at her very first open mic, who said to her, “You should keep doing this.”

And so she has. Through the next 20 questions, we explore her many characters, a forever buzzing Instagram account, and her formidable stage presence. Oh, and Comicstaan, obvs.

1. What words have people used to describe your comedy?

Funny, personal, unique and multi-talented. Because it’s not just set-up and punchlines. It can become anything—a song, a character, anything.

2. What do you love about the scene right now?

More people are trying different things on stage. Some people are just doing music, some one-liners. I think that’s great. There’s more room for different kinds of comics, and how they want to display their comedic styles.

3. How many minutes do you have right now?

I have about 30 minutes.

4. A recent bit you saw that blew your mind?

It’s not very recent, but Manik Mahna’s bit on classmates. I thought that was insanely funny. His delivery and comic style is unique. Matlab maza hi aa jaata hai. It’s really unexpected what he’s about to say. He explodes on stage.

5. Your current favourite Indian comedian?

I love Sumukhi Suresh. I think she is one of the best comedians in India. She has such a great stage presence. I wish there were more standup videos of her online. I’ve really enjoyed watching her.

6. Your current favourite international comedian?

My favourite International comedian is Mike Birbiglia. I saw both his specials on Netflix back to back—Life and The Moth and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend was actually recommended to me by a guy I was dating. The guy is no longer in my life but that special is still special. He’s a great storyteller… so engaging from the first minute to the last.

7. An Indian comedy bit on YouTube you’ve watched at least five times?

This is very old but I have to say there’s literally nobody else I’ve watched so many times: Raju Shrivastav. It was this bit on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge about dhaabas vs five stars. It is so funny. I was in college and I must’ve seen that bit about a billion times. At one point, I could do it by heart. His act-outs are hilarious. He’s one of the legends of Indian comedy.

8. An Indian comedian you think is underrated?

Rohan Desai. He has a great Facebook page. I don’t know why he doesn’t update it often; he needs to. Also, his standup comedy is genius. I wish he did that more often.

9. An international comic who is underrated?

I saw Bridget Christie’s special, Stand Up For Her. And I think people need to talk about her and watch this special.

10. Do you have any rituals before you go up on stage?

Vaise nothing in particular. If it’s a big show and it’s sold-out and I’m nervous, then I just pace a lot to calm my nerves. Or I just stand in a place and start dancing. That releases my energy. Otherwise, I’m just zoned out, or I just talk to whoever’s in the green room.

11. Who do you test your jokes on?

The audience, because I think they’re the best people to tell me if a joke is funny or not. I can take the opinions of a hundred different standup comedians but what matters at the end of the day is laughter. So if I can illicit that on my own from the audience, nothing else matters.

12. What songs do you have on loop right now?

I’ve been tripping on Ajay-Atul music like Zingaat and Komdi Palaali. I listen to a lot of BTS too. And also Fashion ka Jalwa.

13. What’s the first joke you performed that got a laugh?

I did a full bit about having PCOS. What it’s like to have so much testosterone. “Mujh mein itna testosterone hai ki apne aap ko hi chhedti hoon”. I even did this for my set on Queens vs Kings.

14. What mode of transport do you use to get to a show?

Train or Ola Auto. Because, well, the cabs are more expensive.

15. Have you ever performed a show while you were high?

I don’t smoke up, so never. But the first time ever I did standup comedy, I took a shot of whiskey before I went up on stage. Just to, like, [tell myself], “You’re doing this. Now you don’t have an option.”

16. What social media platform are you most active on?

Instagram.

17. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far about being a comedian?

First, just keep doing it. Also, I’m very fond of reading motivational stuff because it makes me feel calmer. There was this quote I read recently which I thought was very nice. I have it saved, I’ll read it to you. It’s by someone called Sarah Manguso:

“The trouble with comparing yourself to others is that there are too many others. Using all others as your control group, all your worst fears and all your fondest hopes are at once true. You are good; you are bad; you are abnormal; you are just like everyone else.”

18. One thing Indian comedians should stop making jokes about?

I don’t think there’s anything like that. I mean you should be free to make a joke about anything you feel like. At the end of the day, it’s your perspective. Yeah, jokes about engineers being virgins are so done at this point. Maybe there’s a virgin engineer who has something to say, but why should we stop him? <chuckles>

19. Was Siddhant Chlamydia, your character on the current season of Comicstaan, inspired by a real character? You really nailed that vibe.

No real character, but I’ve dated a lot of people like that <laughs>. On ‘Comedy of Terrors’ day, we were all really blank. As luck would have it, maine jacket pe button laga rakha tha. When I saw my presentation has words like ‘Yo Yo’, I realised there could be some douchey person who talks like this. So, I opened the button and suddenly this energy came ki ‘haan tu Siddhant Chlamydia hai’ and I just went with it. Of course, subconsciously, it is inspired by people I have dated.

20. We’re BTS fans too but we’d love a little info on Comicstaan BTS (LOLOL). Which contestant was the most fun to work with?

Shreeja [Chaturvedi], for our sketch round. Both of us had such similar energies, ideas and thoughts. It was a lot of fun to work with her. We all used to hang out whenever we could. Some of our best moments were on the roof of the hotel where we’d go up at night. We’d just chill there and talk about life and how existential we’re feeling.

21. Which Comicstaan episode was the most fun to prepare for?

Alt! It was so much fun. There was so much learning. Kenny [Sebastian] was so great at mentoring. He was as enthusiastic about us exploring new things as we were. He’s a very strict person when it comes to respecting stage time, rehearsing well and being prepared. And I think that’s really important. Especially in an alt round where anything can go wrong.

Manorama-ji is somebody I made up when I was in college. My sister and I would just, aise hi lete lete sone se pehle sketches karte the. She was Ramola, and I was Manorama. That’s where the idea came from. The point was that the silliest things can make us laugh, so why should we take ourselves so seriously?

22. Your Instagram is packed with makeup tutorials. Can we expect one in the middle of a set soon?

That’s a great idea. Thank you for giving me this idea. I think I’ll just do a makeup tutorial and no jokes because that will be the joke. Wow. What a great idea.

23. You’re getting a chance to record your material pretty soon. Excited about the Four Quarters taping?

I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve worked really hard and it’s finally happening. I’m just perfecting the 15 minutes that I have, adding more tags to it. Then I’ll just leave it up to the audience and the day and how I’m feeling. I’m very optimistic about it.

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