Brown Women Comedy: It’s our time.

They’re laughing at themselves, Brown people, White people, and everything in between. These Brown women are finally having their say.

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There appears to be a Brown renaissance upon us. A Brown-aissance. Whether it’s Vir Das and Anubhav Singh Bassi at the iconic Sydney Opera House, Nadeem Hussain with his “totally normal” brand of comedy, or AJ Lamarque presenting his guide to gay cruising, the Sydney International Comedy Festival has found more than one or two poster boys for South Asian and diaspora comedy, which is already several more than the one token we usually get.

It’s a different story when it comes to Brown women however. Where are they all? The comedy scene is notoriously male dominated, so it’s not a surprise that the pipeline for brown female comedians in Australia and internationally hasn’t been nurtured. Now that the men are securely on the call sheet, surely it’s our time?

The lack of Brown women in comedy is a stark inequality that producer and comedian Daizy Maan has taken upon herself to rectify. How can we expect there to be Brown women in comedy if we do not raise them? Give them a safe space to try material, share their personal stories and have a laugh?

This is what she has created with Brown Women Comedy, Australia’s first, largest and only comedy showcase exclusively featuring South Asian women. After selling out Trades Hall in Melbourne (over 1600 tickets) and winning over white audiences at Adelaide Fringe, she’s brought this special recipe of warm, inclusive, comedy gold to Sydney’s Manning Bar. Each night has a different line up of Sydney-based comedians, some of whom are only performing for the third or fourth time.

The night that this reviewer attended, Maan opened the evening with plenty of pazazz, after nervously greeting the aunties in the audience (Namaste Auntyji, Sorry for what you’re about to hear Auntyji). She hilariously recounts how racial profiling helped her sell tickets to the show, targeting brown people in the street with her flyers and fielding questions from ignorant White men about why there isn’t a White Man Comedy event. She jokes about turning 30, Indian uncles and their metaphors, freezing her eggs and travelling to Bali. It’s fresh, honest and strikingly relatable.

Kripa Krithivasan brings in the topical Drake vs. Kendrick beef which is currently gripping the rap world and annoying all of the Brown women married to Brown boys who think they are Black.

Monica Kumar details her obsession with hotness, garnering laughs whilst astutely observing that hotness provides a level of privilege to Brown girls that they are otherwise without.

Chanika De Silva divulges her Indian father’s impact on her self-esteem with the one-liners that haunt her, like “looks skip a generation”.

Brown Women Comedy
(Source: Supplied)

The highlights of the evening by far were sets by two of the most seasoned comedians on the roster, co-creative director of Scary Strangers, improv and drag icon-in-the-making Ru Halwala, and 2022 Raw Comedy finalist Guneet Kaur.

Ru had the crowd in big belly laughs with her reclamation of the word “curry muncher”, complaints that the biggest insult to any Sri Lankan is being called Indian, and a series of bird call imitations that surprise, delight and simply must be witnessed live.

Kaur tampers Ru’s high-energy outfit with a much drier tone, winning the crowd over with her tried and tested blend of dead-pan delivery, well-constructed jokes and introspective sarcasm. She explores the trials of interracial relationships and the tribulations of always being considered the “autistic” one. Both comedians leave the audience wanting more.

It was a joyful night of comedy in the intimate space in Manning Bar where an audience of mostly South Asian women, a sprinkle of aunties and some token White attendees held space for up-and-coming Brown women comedians to share their truths, laugh at themselves and turn their most harrowing life experiences into something bright.

Here’s hoping there are more of these to come.

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