This week’s episodes of Comedy Shots, introduces Sumaira Shaikh. She is a psychology graduate who gave up counselling for comedy. She not only performs as a stand-up comedian but has also worked as a comedy writer on multiple shows. She has written with comedy group AIB and on Abhish Mathew’s chat show ‘Son Of Abish’. She talks to us about her journey from giving stand-up comedy to being on ‘Comedy Shots’.
Watch her episode of dealing with rejection from auto-rickshaws in her episode here.
Q: What was your first ever performance like?
A: It was in 2015 and I was still studying in college. I just thought of trying my hand at comedy once. I had no plans on doing it for long. It was a ladies open mic. It was an all women line-up and audience. There were some bigger comedians in the audience. I thought it was going alright but I had one joke that worked very well. It was the joke that got me recommended for an internship at AIB.
Q: So when did you decide to become a comedian and not just give it a shot?
A: Once the AIB internship happened and I continued to do open mics, I thought now I can’t leave. So I just continued to do it since then.
Q: Which comedian or incident made you consider giving comedy a shot?
A: I had gone to watch a comedy show at Canvas Laugh Club, which is no longer there. Gaurav Kapoor was a new comedian at that show. I just remembered the jokes from the show and liked how much fun it looked like. I wanted to know how to do what they were doing which is why I went for my first open mic.
Q: So you mentioned watching Gaurav Kapoor as one of the first comedians you saw live. Out of the contestants on Comedy Shots which is the comedian you excited to watch perform?
A: Okay so I don’t have just one it’s a small list. I am curious to see what Aadar Malik does because he is doing songs I heard. Another comedian I want to watch is Pratyush Chaubey. He is shy off-stage and I want to see him do well so that I feel like shy people can also succeed in comedy because I’m shy too. That’s my personal agenda for Pratyush.
Q: So as a shy person on stage did you have and pre-stage rituals to calm yourself down before performing?
A: I didn’t have a ritual as such but I don’t drink coffee before performing. I love coffee but when I drink coffee before going on stage it makes me anxious and it messes with my mind. That’s a fear of drinking coffee I need to get over.
Q: You perform mostly in Hindi but you are equally comfortable with English. Did you make a conscious shift to performing in Hindi?
A: So earlier I used to only perform in English because I though English Stand-up comedy meant you had to perform in English. Then I saw people performing in Stand-up comedy in Hindi. Everyone told me to do what comes naturally. That was when I started performing in Hindi because that was natural to me.
Q: You’ve written for web-series like Son of Abish and Pushpavali. What is the difference in writing jokes for Stand-up comedy and web-series?
A: When you write jokes for other people you have to be less possessive about your jokes. When you do stand-up comedy you write jokes for yourself and that’s it but in a writers room you have to be more giving with your jokes. That’s why I’ve seen some really good stand-up comedians fail in a writer’s room.
Q: What Is one fun memory from the show Son Of Abish that you remember?
A: Of course! Abish does multiple things when he is on the show. So he will be talking to us about an idea and then set up meetings or make calls on the phone through Siri. He then says something wrong and asks Siri to correct it on the phone. Eventually he used to get into arguments with Siri. We even started doing this as a gag in front of him.
Q: You performed as a comedy duo with Urooj Ashfaq who you are also friends with. What was that experience like?
A: So we both had half an hour of material but we still wanted our own show so we paired up. It’s always good to perform with a friend because before the show it is chilled out and after the show, whether you do well or badly you still have your friend.
Q: On Comedy Shots, did you take new material or did you revisit some older jokes and added jokes to them? How did you test the new jokes?
A: So for Comedy Shots, I returned to old premises I was already working on before Comedy Shots happened. I added new jokes to them and tested it out on open mics first. I don’t test jokes on other comedians because I can’t be that funny off-stage. Then once a comedian says a joke doesn’t seem that funny it can make you start doubting if the joke is actually funny or not.
Q: You are the only female comedian on Comedy Shots. How do you feel about that?
A: Well, I certainly would appreciate more women being on the line-up. I’m sure next time there will be more women who will get the chance so we can be like ‘Yeah! There’s more of us’. However, I am glad to have gotten this opportunity.
Q: What do you feel about the stand-up comedy scene in India in general?
A: India’s stand-up scene is new compared to the international market. However, in India itself stand-up comedy is a decade old now. There are comedians who have kept at it and made it a proper career option. They were the ones who really did it for passion. They talk of days when there were more audience and less comedians. Now it’s the opposite. Everyone getting into comedy now, knows that it can be a career option.
Watch out for Sumaira Shaikh in the new episodes of Comedy Shots, releasing this Friday, to cheer up before kicking off the weekend.