South Asian Women in Comedy: Unafraid to Make Fun of Themselves

Sindhu Vee

South Asians have been steadily making their mark in comedy for a long, long time. We’ve come a long way from the days of the beloved British show, “Goodness Gracious Me,” as we now see Mindy Kaling’s “Never Have I Ever” making waves on Netflix, and comedy collectives like the all-women Facial Recognition Comedy and Kutti Gang routinely making mixed audiences laugh onstage. There are increasingly more spaces like Brown Mirror, a comedy club showcasing several talented South Asian stand-up comedians. It is refreshing to see such an increase in South Asian representation both on and offstage, on social media platforms and also on TV.

Their subjects range from the personal to the political, drawing from their immigrant experiences and also of course their comedic inspirations. One topic that frequently comes up is brown parents. Russell Peters was probably the earliest and best known comedians to make fun of the toxic, sometimes abusive parenting styles that brown parents are known for onstage. And making fun of the quirks and oddities and sometimes endearing qualities of desi parents still remains a popular, hugely relatable topic that’s a surefire way to draw the laughs on any platform.

We see brown parents so often as part of their children’s TikTok videos or Instagram Reels now as co-stars in and not just subjects of their viral content. We thought it might be nice to see women making quality jokes about their children for a change — or, even better, themselves. Not surprisingly, this is a very small demographic, but the three women below will give you plenty of laughs to pass your lunch-break with.

1. Sindhu Vee

Sindhu Vee went to four universities and was a “high-flying bonds tradeswoman” before she turned to comedy in her forties. Now she’s a much awarded, much loved comedienne, making regular appearances on TV and performance circuits. You might have seen her on the hugely popular Netflix series “Sex Education”. But catch her on YouTube or anywhere live, and you will be thoroughly rewarded by her sharp, acerbic wit and her perfect comedic timing. In one bit she did at the Apollo, she makes fun of everyone in her family, especially herself. She’s extremely clever and quite original. Great to watch, read, and listen to.

2. Zarna Garg

Zarna Garg is known the internet over as Funny Brown Mom. During the pandemic, she joined TikTok and, in her first year, snagged more than 35 million views (now 50 million). She is extraordinarily, wildly hilarious. She jokes relatably about marriage, mothers-in-law, her kids and moving to America — all with a bindi (“Let’s face it, it’s just a PR tactic”). There’s a refreshing self-awareness to her personality and an exuberance to her presence onstage and onscreen that allows her to connect with audiences outside the South Asian diaspora. According to her website, she’s even done outdoor impromptu sets at major landmarks across New York City including Central Park and the MET, and when security chased her away, she continued her set on the New York City subway. Must watch.

comedy
Mama Jotes (image credits: Instagram/mamajotes)

3. Mama Jotes

Jyoti Chand, who goes by Your Cool Mom Friend, is a writer, entertainer and lifestyle influencer, mainly on Instagram and Tiktok. She produces content about her daily life as a mom to two young children, with her husband, parents and children often starring in her videos. With over 50,000 followers, she was once in stand-up, has a very millennial sense of humor, and she brings that to her work spreading laughter and knowledge about self-love. While you may not be on board with everything she stands for, she’s still a charming person to come across on your Instagram feed every now and then. You can find yourself addicted to watching her family’s daily shenanigans. Be careful!