Must see Asian comics at the Melbourne Comedy Festival according to Urvi Majumdar

Indian Australian Comedian Urvi Majumdar is hitting the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for a fourth time this year, and she says 2021 is a great time for Asian audiences to feel represented and perhaps even jump on stage themselves.

Urvi is performing in "For A Good Time Call", a split bill featuring Grace Jarvis and Bronwyn Kuss. The show is described as a "jumble of wild stories, dark jokes and ridiculous antics" that represents the next generation of Australian comedy - "female, multicultural, queer, weird, dirty and thoroughly funny."

She says her work will touch on classic Asian Australian themes - the absurdities of moving between Australian schools and a migrant household, the pressures of upholding a 'good girl' image to her community, and watching yourself slowly become your parents despite the perceived cultural differences.

Speaking on race and family was not a conscious decision, says Urvi, but her work has always ended up autobiographical. She was initially attracted to the art form after a bad break up and quickly realised that her "sad poetry" was less empowering than the jokes being told by female comics who were processing their feelings on stage.
 

Urvi, a former high school teacher, says working in comedy never really floated into her mind as a child. She suspects that might be because while young boys are called funny for being silly, girls are often called weird. However, she did want to be a performer - an actor. But voices around her swiftly told her that "Bend It Like Beckham" was an anomaly, the film industry was racist and that she would inevitably end up broke.

"None of that's really been true," she says. "If I work hard, I know that I can get places and earn a good income from the arts."

Urvi says now is the time for budding South Asian comedians to enter the scene. Institutions are supporting artists from diverse backgrounds and increased representation is attracting new audiences that understand the Asian Australian experience and get the jokes.

"Don't listen to how hard it is. If you stick at it, you're basically guaranteed to have a space in the industry. That's where it's moving."

But when it comes to winning over Asian parents’ who may not consider comedy a "respectable art form", she admits, "I don't know what to do about that." But there are other comedians, like herself, she says, who have gone through similar doubts and are ready to encourage those starting out.

"I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about it," she says. "I'm never really lonely."

Urvi's comedy festival recommendations

Here are some of the Asian comics Urvi recommends you check out at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Urvi Majumdar

Grace Jarvis, Bronwyn Kuss & Urvi Majumdar in For a Good Time Call

The new generation of Australian comedy is female, multicultural, queer, weird, dirty and thoroughly funny! These are all things you can look forward to laughing about in this exciting split bill from some of Melbourne’s best comedians on the rise.

Inspired by bathroom wall graffiti, For a Good Time Call is a jumble of wild stories, dark jokes and ridiculous antics that will provide Melbourne audiences three new contenders for their favourite comedian (and/or a new reason to be glad you aren’t one of them).

On 25 March to 18 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

BONUS: SAARI readers are offered a 20% discount. Just use the code SAARI when you book.

Michael Hing

Michael Hing in Kill-Hing in the Name Of.

Michael Hing (triple j drive, Dragon Friends, failed Senate candidate) returns to Melbourne for the first time since 2018 with a stand-up show about having too many therapists, invincible lobsters and receiving a low-level death threat. Y'know, classic.

On 26 March to 5 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

Sashi Perera

Jordan Barr, Prue Blake, Donna Collins, Cat Finch & Sashi Perera in The Breast of the Fest.

“Now in its third year, The Breast of The Fest has fast become a must-see show at Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Known for its sharp power suits and even sharper jokes, The Breast of The Fest showcases Melbourne's top emerging comedians, plus surprise guest breasts on various nights.”

On 26 March to 4 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

Dilruk Jayasinha

Dilruk Jayasinha in Victorious Lion. 

“The literal translation of ‘Jayasinha’ is ‘Victorious Lion’. It’s a name befitting of a king. It’s a name with swagger. But is it suitable for Dilruk?

Dil’s had a victorious few years. He’s performed sell-out shows around the country and the world and filmed a stand-up special for Amazon Prime. He’s been on TV shows like Have You Been Paying Attention? and Utopia. But he still doesn’t feel like the triumphant king of the animal kingdom his name suggests.

It’s time for Dilruk to work out if he is a Victorious Lion by nature or by name only.”

On 26 March to 18 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

Sami Shah

Sami Shah in Cuck.

“Sami signed on for "better or for worse". He just didn't expect it to get "worse" so fast. 

A show about marriage and heartbreak in a pandemic, with a little socio-political satire on the side!

Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and broadcaster. He’s been profiled in The New York Times and ABC’s Australian Story.”

On 26 March to 5 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

Aaron Chen

Aaron Chen in Sorry Forever.

“This will probably be a lot of stuff from my 2020 show mr cigarette which I never got to perform in Melbourne. But I’ll also have a think about it right now as I’m in hotel quarantine for 14 days. So I’m not too sure yet. If I have ever wronged you, I’m sorry forever (name of show).”

On 6 April to 18 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

Amna Bee

Amna Bee in Don’t Tell My Family.

“Amna was raised to be a standard Pakistani woman but has gone ahead and beat those standards down to a pulp, along with her family’s expectations of her.

Amna started her stand-up comedy career in Alice Springs, NT after discovering that she is pretty hilarious. A perpetual smartass, she is now bringing her unique brand of humour to Melbourne International Comedy Festival in this sparkling new 50-minute show. Join her as she chronicles her journey from living in Pakistan, Canada and around obscure locations in Australia. She has tales to tell of marriage, divorce, dating, political activism, being a hippie (not a hipster mind you) and general survival as someone whose opinions don't always match her physical appearance. Her worldview is as unique as her life experiences. 

Come along for a wild ride of crossing borders, taboos and expectations – one debacle at a time!”

On 7 April to 18 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

He Huang and Sean Diao

He Huang and Sean Diao in Crazy Broken Chinese.

“Look, if you people are looking for some Crazy Rich Asian jokes, we don’t have any because we are SANE and borderline POOR. We come from different provinces of China. He Huang is from Chongqing Province (重庆市), an awesome and SANE gal who will go crazy on the stage talking about her family dramas, cross-cultural observations and dating anecdotes. Sean Diao is from Yunnan Province (云南省), mildly awesome and SANE but will go nuts telling you his thoughts on dating, his mum and day-to-day observations.

We met in Melbourne last year and immediately were bonded by our shared background and the fact that we both failed our parents (Sean is less disappointed because his parents suck). Luckily, we found stand-up comedy and Australian therapists to cope with all the internal struggles. We are so excited to debut our first one-hour long stand-up comedy show in English during the 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival! Please join us for a night of exotic hee-hee and ha-ha.”

On 26 March to 17 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.

Lizzy Hoo

Lizzy Hoo in Hoo Dis?

“It’s me! Lizzy Hoo. Weird kooky times amirite? Bushfires and pandemic woah. Lol 2020. Everyone hates each other too.

Should I say anything or just stay quiet? Do you think we’re doing too much or not enough? Oh, I forgot to tell you, I got a dog! Cute. He’s a rescue. Have you tried that new restaurant near you? It’s so good. Yum! Love it. Okay byeeeee.

The world seems a little weird but I think we’re going to be okay.

Originally from Brisbane, Lizzy Hoo (now a Sydneysider) is the rising star to watch in 2021.

Lizzy managed to perform at the Sydney Opera House three times in 2020 – no small feat given the year it was!

As seen on Channel 10’s Just For Laughs, ABC Life and SBS Voices.”

On 26 March to 18 April. Get tickets and showtimes here.


Chenturan Aran is a playwright and journalist from Melbourne. He's a member of SAARI's Editorial Team and you can reach him at Chenturan@SAARICollective.com.au.  

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