Dead Ant

Next Big Thing: Swati Sachdeva on Dark Humour, Zoom Shows & Making The Oldies Laugh

By Maanya Sachdeva 3 July 2020

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Swati Sachdeva’s ‘aha’ moment happened when she made it to the top 20 of Comicstaan‘s second season. The Delhi-based comic explains that while she had been doing open mics on and off, she only seriously began to consider a career in comedy after being shortlisted for Amazon Prime Video’s comedy format show. “I realised that maybe there is something in me that I have made it till here,” she says. “After that, I actually got very regular and realised that if I write and perform regularly, I may ace this game.”

With over 12,000 followers, a solo trial show (Mazaak Pesha Bana Rakha Hain) and a shoutout from Kusha Kapila under her belt, it seems like she’s definitely on her way—especially considering her first performance was for a group of college students in DU. “Uss time pe, I didn’t have any content per se but I was very confident on stage. I had this personality that was kind of intimidating so the audience tried to heckle me, but you could say I was really witty.” She continues, “Meri open mics mein—later in life—zyaada phatti hogi as compared to my first ever performance. I killed; people were applauding me only for my confidence and the way I was delivering my ideas.”

Now that she’s serious about it, she says she’s already grown a lot as a comic. DeadAnt caught up with Sachdeva to find out more about her brand of observational comedy, her favourite comedians in the scene and views on the old Delhi vs. Bombay debate.

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

Sometimes I’m ‘goofy’ and ‘bouncy’ on stage. They say that I’m an observant comic. Things like that. I’ve heard that I’m more of a personality-driven person. This is all from when my content game wasn’t strong. In my opinion, even the last video I released on Instagram… I’m not so proud of that content. It was from eight months ago and I feel like I can write and deliver things better. I’m a changed comic; a different, evolved person now. As you evolve, the descriptions of your performance also evolve, and people haven’t watched me lately, but these are the generic terms I’ve heard. Bouncy, goofy, warm, observant, nice.

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

I love the fact that I get spots now. I don’t really have to chase them anymore; I don’t have to beg people to give me a chance. The scene got better when I was into it, and my performance and opinions started mattering to people around me. I do like the fact that…I’m from Delhi and here, in the Delhi circuit, mostly people are warm. I feel that, in Bombay, the scene is more active and there are more stage performances there. So, the support is also more there. Right now, when the scene is non-existent, Zoom shows are happening so there’s nothing to love honestly. But one thing which is interesting about Zoom shows is you get to be on lineups with comics across the country. You’re not just limited to Delhi comics or Bombay comics; I got to know so many people from Jaipur, Bangalore and Pune. I thought I was so funny until I met a few really creative people who are doing great (things).

3. How many minutes do you have right now?

I feel the funniest thing to ask a comedian is how many minutes do you have right now. Two years ago, I used to think “mera aadha ghanta ready hai”. Two years later, mujhe abhi bhi lagta hain mera aadha ghanta hi ready hai. Because as I’ve evolved, I no longer enjoy all the material I had before. So why would I make the audience listen to that? I keep writing, I’ve got over an hour of material. But how much of that is tight? I’ve never been sure of that. I would say 40-45 minutes I can pull off, ki utna mujhe audience sun legi aur bardaash kar legi. In fact, fun hi kar legi.

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

So recently, I saw James Acaster’s Netflix special (Repertoire) where he performed a bit demonstrating how to take a passport picture right with the help of a placard. That was really fun to watch because it was very different; it was very experimental and full of surprises by the end.

5. Your current favourite Indian comedian?

I have never had one favourite comedian as such. I admire different comedians for different things. I have been constantly liking these few comics: Sumit Anand, Manik Mahna, Anirban Dasgupta, Sonali Thakker and more recently, I liked Aishwarya Mohanraj’s video a lot.

I love Abhishek Upmanyu. And Kenny I like, matlab not just for stand-up but he has a lot more to offer. Kanan Gill’s special, I feel, is the best special that is on Amazon Prime by any Indian comic.

6. Your current favourite international comedian?

My current favourite international comedians are Taylor Tomlinson and Michelle Wolf.

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

I have watched Sumit Anand and Abhishek Upmanyu’s videos (the more recent ones) at least three-five times. I’ve also watched Manik Mahna’s Classmates a few times and Anubhav Singh Bassi’s Cheating.

8. An international comedy bit on YouTube you’ve watched at least five times?

None. Bohot initially, I used to watch Russell Peters because uss time pe yahi ek international comedian pata tha. Unke videos maine do-teen baar dekhi hain but nahi, paanch baar…no one.

9. An Indian comic you think is underrated?

Devesh Dixit and Pratyush Chaubey.

10. An international comic you think is underrated?

I have honestly started watching international comedians only a few months back, so I haven’t seen too many. Obviously best hi dekhe hain vahaan ke toh underrated vaalon tak main pohonchi nahi hoon.

11. Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?

There’s no ritual as such before I go on-stage. Whenever there’s an important show, I go and take a dump before the show because mujhe lagta hai ki agar maine abhi nahi kiya toh main stage pe hagg doongi and that would be worse.

12. Who do you test your jokes on?

In case an open mic is not on the cards for me and I need to test my joke immediately, main apne doston pe chup ke se, ya phir apne partner pe chup ke se kar leti hoon. Kabhi kabhi toh bata kar hi kar leti hoon. Mostly my best friends jo comedians nahi hain, par actually mere well-wishers hain.

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

This is such a sweet question! I really like sharing my playlist, in fact I like flaunting it because I’m obsessed with my playlist. It’s not that great but (laughs) I think my playlist is like my comedy—I really want it to grow. I’m really obsessed with it. Mujhe aisa lagta hai bohot badhiya hai, baakiyon ka pata nahi. Joh doh gaane main bohot sunn rahi hoon recently voh hain, I Follow Rivers (Lykke Li) and Playdate (Melanie Martinez).

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

The first joke I performed that got a laugh was really long back. As I told you, maine beech mein breaks bohot li thi, jab ki mera pehla open mic happened a long time back. Voh jokes nahi thi, bas baatein thi. Funny observations on my parents and stuff like that. Aa hi gaya tha uss pe laugh because I was kind of confident toh decent laugh aa gaya tha.

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

I live in West Delhi, and most shows are in South Delhi. So, either I go by metro or I go by my car. Or I take a cab. Mostly by metro. 

16. Have you ever performed a show while high?

Yes, it was on my bucket list. I wanted to perform a show while being slightly tipsy because tipsy ho ke main thodi zyaada funny ho jaati hoon. Voh hota hain na doston ke saath tum thodi zyaada bakbak karne lagte ho while you’re tipsy or high. So I tried that on the stage, but no. I realised that there’s a big difference between my friends and an audience that has paid to see me. So it’s not a good idea to drink before getting on the stage.

17. What’s the weirdest place you’ve performed at so far?

Usually jo weird places hoti hain na perform karne ke liye, either they are very dingy or weird-looking bars jo uncomfortable kar dete hain. Or they are some random corporate shows. Like around the New Year, I performed at a small get-together at some resort. It was a family audience, so the audience was mostly over 40. Bohot hi desi log the aur bohot hi WhatsApp jokes pasand karte the voh log. Unko hasaane ke liye mujhe kaafi apna humour giraana padha.

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

That I should stay true to my personality and that I should focus on writing better. I have been told that I have a great stage persona. Average jokes meri personality pe suit nahi karte—yeh baat mujhe kissi bohot ache well-wisher ne bataayi thi, someone I trust a lot.

19. One thing Indian comedians should stop joking about?

One thing Indian comedians should stop joking about is that one thing which is unfunny but you are doing it only because it’s going to get you attention. I used to feel ki death joke agar funny ho sakta hai, toh rape joke kyun nahi? Agar tum kissi ek religion pe joke kar sakte ho, toh doosre pe kyun nahi? I’m talking about dark humour right now, but I really feel things can be a lot less offensive if they’re more hilarious. Joke about anything and everything but it should not look farzi.

20. Which social media are you most active on?

I’ve always been most active on Instagram; but I’m a little sick of that app now. I want to get rid of it. I want to spend less time on it. It’s like a love-hate relationship. Yeah, Instagram is my #bae.

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