Sumukhi Suresh: “Women Tell Me To Take It Down A Notch, Otherwise I Won’t Find A Suitable Boy’
Comedy probably seems like the easiest, most fun career to be in. But this is far from the truth.
The gift of the gab, the ability to make people laugh, and to make a living out of it, is a lot harder than it looks. And being a woman in this space — even harder. Which is why these hilarious women we’ve featured in our Women In Comedy series this month deserve your applause. They’re smart, they’re sassy, and they’ll leave you in splits. Read on about how comedy happened to them.
One of the newer names and faces in the Indian comedy scene, Sumukhi Suresh has garnered quite a fan base in the short time she has been a full-time comic and Improv artist. Hailing from Bangalore, Sumukhi has been in Mumbai for about a year and is best known for her character in the mocumentary web series, Better Life Foundation (BLF), which has been inspired by American sit-com The Office.
Today, Sumukhi tells Hauterfly what gets her going on bad days, and how she has hope that gender will soon not matter in the Indian comedy industry.
Part Time Lover To Full Time Friend
My first show ever was at Jus Truffs, Bangalore. I had never done an open mic before that. I just wanted to check if I would last on stage. Thankfully I did, and post that, thanks to Naveen Richard, Vamsidhar, and Sanjay Manaktala, I was a regular at open mics and started getting more shows.
Basically, I started out with Improv comedy, moved on to sketch comedy, did a few videos, and then moved on to stand up. Once I had the confidence that I have enough avenues to try and make money, I quit my day job and started doing this full time. Although, I started panicking exactly a day after I quit my job!
As an Improviser, I embarrass myself onstage very regularly and very happily! I have played everything from a scissor to a cow. I’ve also thrown my shoe at someone, so the list of embarrassing moments is endless.
But there have been down days too. My worst show ever has been most of the open mics when I try new material. One particular instance was an early sketch show with Richa Kapoor in Mumbai, where I felt like my soul had left the building while I was on stage, right before turning around and mocking me.
Sometimes, you get an unusually tough crowd. In stand up, I talk to the crowd, and try and break the ice. If they don’t look like they will warm up, then I do my best tight set, buy ice cream on the way home, and smash it into my face.
But I make it through the bad days by thinking of my rent and my landlord’s face — that’s when the funnies usually come pacing towards me.
In terms of influences, I have been watching more stand up off late, and it just amazes me how well comics like Jim Jefferies, Dave Chappelle, and the likes know what their funny is and what their voices are on stage.
To be yourself while you’re doing stand up is the best feeling ever and, despite how impatient I am to find that, I want it to come to me organically.
Comedy was always a big deal abroad. In India, we have also had regional comics. English stand-up comedy is picking up now. This is a great time for us, because we are at the nascent stage of something extraordinary. Since the number of comics are growing, the novelty is shifting to great content rather than the art itself.
Comedy Vs Finding A Mate
Honestly, all comics, male or female, usually feel the same way. My struggles to find my voice on stage while doing stand up, or my restlessness to put out more content, or the disheartening feeling when the crowd doesn’t respond is similar to what most comics feel in the business.
But yes, I have observed that there is more of a bias in the audience than within the community itself. Sometimes, the men and the women in the audience won’t warm up to me and my jokes, just because I am a girl.
I remember once, after a show that didn’t go so well, I was sulking with soup at the buffet table and an uncle came up to me and said “Why are you sad? It’s not like this can be your career. After you settle down, you wont need this”.
I have women meeting me at random stores and telling me how much they love me, but that I should take it down a notch, otherwise I won’t find a suitable boy. The same folks would take a dirty joke from a man and laugh it off saying, “boys will be boys”.
I have even been told by movie makers that I can’t be the lead in a movie because I need to look and weigh a certain way for that. I am sure there are men who hear this as well, but the percentage seems to be much lower.
I am just keeping my head down and trying to make as much content as I can. It is the best way to combat any pressures. And I believe that things will change soon. More women are coming forward now and the audience will get used to the idea. Soon, gender will no longer matter — comics and the comedy will matter.
Me in three words: Loud-Laugher, Bossily-Nice, Creepily-Cute
Favourite one-liner joke: The number of times your mom calls you during the day is directly proportional to how characterless you are.
Current project: I am working on my special, Behti Naak, my first feature film, Humble Politician Nograj, and another web series!