Surbhi during a skit on Queens of Comedy Image: YouTube/ The TLC India
"Feminism is a lot like going to the gym. You cannot look for immediate results, it doesn't happen overnight. Although abs are much easier to get than equal rights"— if you've come across this gem in the last few months, you're on the right side of the uprising. It was said out loud by comedian Surbhi, whom you might have seen on Filter Copy's videos, but have definitely seen on the all-female stand-up show Queens of Comedy, and who just got real about making it as a desi comedian.
Surbhi, who is also a comedy writer, has been a constant fixture on the desi stand-up scene. She tells us that there's just one way out if you want to make it. "You have to keep at it. The scene is growing, but again comedy may seem like a fad, so when I'm not performing, I write. You can make a living out of comedy but not just stand-up. You have to look for other gigs," says Surbhi, who started her adult life as a copywriter for an ad agency.
"In an ad agency, you have 10 good ideas, but most of them will get shot down and won't make it to TV. So, I had a bunch of cool ideas which I had written down on my laptop, and I would just ask my friends, 'Oh, what do you think about this?' And a friend told me I should go to an open-mic," Surbhi tells us.
Surbhi did go to a few open mics, and got a legit response from the audiences. "Everybody was really supportive. I bombed a bunch of times, but that's just part of the process. But initially, I wasn't looking at comedy as a career option. I was just doing it as it was really fun," adds Surbhi, who says her favourite comedian is Aparna Nancherla, who has appeared on Inside Amy Schumer and now has a comedy special coming out.
Surbhi also talks about TLC's Queens of Comedy, which found a huge resonance among comedy-loving millennials. "On the show, we were supposed to write our material very quickly. So, it helps you to think on your feet. We had really good mentors and after every episode, we'd take their feedback," adds Surbhi about the show, which was judged by Kaneez Surka, Richa Chadha and AIB boy Rohan Joshi.
Incidentally, Surbhi was the only female stand-up in a comic line-up when she started doing comedy just six months ago, but she thinks the scene is changing fast. "The scene in Mumbai is growing really fast. There are 3-5 female stand-up names in every line-up," adds the Mumbai comic, who also feels the desi comedy scene is like a growing stage and might just blow up anyday now.
sex and all is cool but have you ever completely removed the sticker from your tupperware in one go?— Surbhi Bagga (@SmallTalkPolice) December 5, 2017
Surbhi's advertising background interestingly helped her around censorship too. "There's less censorship in comedy compared to advertising. Not everything you find funny will make it to a video, unless you're doing something of your own. For instance, I have my YouTube channel and I write my own sketches. Over there, I have complete liberty. But if I'm working as a writer somewhere, there's like a 90 per cent chance that a few things might not make the cut. But then again, comedy is subjective," adds Surbhi, who also wants people to make a cumulative effort to not introduce women comedians as 'female comedians' or 'comediennes.'
"Just call them comics — that's it," says the comedian, whose Facebook bio reads, "I'm Beyonce, Always."