Comedy review: Brown Women Comedy, Trades Hall, MICF 2024

A different line-up of six South Asian comedians take to the stage each night.
A group of female comedians of Asian appearance photoshopped together.

How do we recover from the harmful things we learned about love, sex, gender, privilege, race and life expectations growing up? Through comedy? Therapy? Trauma-bonding with friends and a room of strangers? Brown Women Comedy may tick all of these boxes with its stellar line-up of South Asian women comedians who take us along reflective and belly-laughing journeys.

Intimate, thoughtful and flipping shame on its head, Brown Women Comedy mines vulnerable pockets of life, crafting compelling and resonant stories with inviting candour.

Produced by Daizy Maan, the show returns for a third year at Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In response to the lack of South Asian women represented at comedy festivals in Australia, and the butt-of-the-joke positionality that diverse communities have long faced, Maan has curated a talented collective of South Asian comedians taking their narratives into their own hands.

With an alternating line-up of performers each night, the collective features Daizy Maan, Yasmin Kassim (you may remember her from Neighbours and Jungle), Gauri B, Amna Bee, Sashi Perera (MICF solo show: Boundaries), Shyaire Ganglani, Aarti Vincent, Kru Harale, Jess Karamjeet and Urvi Majumdar (MICF solo show: Burnt).

Opening night was hosted by 18-year-old Kushi Venkatesh. She commands a mic with the ease and flair of a comedic presenter beyond her years. First up, Shyaire Ganglani leads us tenderly through narratives around queerness, migration and the complexities of both strained and loving parental relationships. She touches on “coloniser syndrome” when it comes to dating white people – a trend that repeatedly emerged throughout the night, alongside problematic parental dating expectations.

High-energy and evocative, Urvi Majumdar transports us back to growing up. We relive crippling academic pressure from parents, break-ups, dating mishaps and imagine the radical possibilities of mobile phones.

Daizy Maan, a sharp storyteller who speaks with laid-back confidence, candidly weaves through sex and relationships, existential angst and superstitions, ending in a space of joyful empowerment. Outspoken and vivid, with a charismatic coolness, Gauri B dives deep into sex-positivity, love and the Taj Mahal. She interrogates privilege, power and social norms in the West and within India, leaving us both thoughtful and in stitches laughing.

Exuding a joyous playfulness and self-assurance, Yasmin Kassim unapologetically owns her hairiness and her sexuality as a bisexual woman, among many other things traditionally wrapped up in shame. In the final set of the night, witty and observant Sashi Perera puts her identity to question. She plays with tropes of “whiteness” and “brownness”, while cleverly questioning the force of colonialism in the everyday.

This line-up of six unique but cohesive comedy sets highlights the power of collective experiences – both in reflecting stories and being seen. While culturally specific resonances bleed between sets, well-crafted humour and broader ideas around social conditioning, relationships and womanhood stretch beyond cultures.

Read: Comedy review: Lizzy Hoo: Hoo’s That Girl?, The Victoria Hotel, MICF 2024

Brown Women Comedy offers a collective force of vulnerable empowerment to be remembered.

Tickets: $44-$49

Brown Women Comedy will be performed at Trades Hall until 21 April 2024 as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF 2024) and at Manning Bar from 8 to 12 May 2024 as part of Sydney Comedy Festival.

Monique Nair is a Melbourne/Naarm based writer of Indian-Italian-Polish heritage. She is a screenwriter for My Melbourne (2024, Mind Blowing Films, Screen Australia) and co-edited Mascara Literary Review’s debut anthology, Resilience (2022), published with Ultimo Press. An alumni of the West Writers program with Footscray Community Arts, her writing has been published in Kill Your Darlings, Mascara Literary Review, Voiceworks, Peril, and Swim Meet Lit Mag. She has performed or presented at Emerging Writers’ Festival and National Young Writers’ Festival.