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Why an Indian queer kid in Thailand fell hard for Britney Spears

Sunanda is set to "punch up" at the Melbourne Comedy Fest

It’s Britney, bitch!

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2022 is right around the corner, and Sunanda Sachatrakul is confessing some serious love for Britney Spears with their debut Sunanda Loves Britney

It took Sunanda about a decade to realise that they didn’t want to be Britney, they wanted to do Britney, and this is where the show begins. What comes next is a shit-storm of family drama, confusion, blonde-girl-addiction and lesbianing on a Vespa.

Dilpreet speaks with Sunanda about growing up a queer Indian kid in Thailand, South Asian comedians in Australia and punching up.

Dilpreet: Sunanda, what’s with the obsession with Britney? Please indulge us.

Sunanda: I remember when I was 16 and listening to the English-language pop radio station in Bangkok and hearing the first couple bars of “...Baby, One More Time”, and I thought “I am not quite sure what these lyrics mean, but… WHAT A BANGER!” Then I saw the music video shortly after, and this blonde girl next door in a pink sports bra and white pants was doing flips, and her dance moves got me hooked. For the next ten years, I was mesmerised by Britney Spears and thought I wanted to be her, but urm… turned out I was just wanted to DO her. To me, she is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic and vulnerable entertainers of my generation and definitely up there of all times.


Dilpreet: This is your first time performing at the iconic Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Debuts are scary; how are you holding up?


Sunanda: I am quite nervous! I’ve done a solo show before at Fringe 2019 and Midsumma 2020, but this is a beast of a festival! However, I have brought the incredible Candy Bowers on board as director this time. I am so excited to work with her and a marketing consultant to achieve more than I ever could alone. It’s difficult as an independent artist who also self-produces. It’s hard to prioritise working on the actual material of the show and rehearsals when you have press and graphic design and social media and logistics to deal with. So, I’m hoping this time around; I’ll be able to deliver a very impressive show because it truly takes a team. It’s a good way to do my first Melbourne International Comedy Festival, that’s for sure!


Dilpreet: Tell us a bit more about the show - what should the audience expect?


Sunanda: I’m a stand-up, but also a sketch performer and just generally a silly clown so that the show will have all these elements. All of the content is based on my life, so many South Asians will relate hard to the struggles I’ve had in my brown family, as a female at birth, queer and gender non-conforming. Also, if you’ve ever had any interest in Britney Spears at all or the very queer cultural characteristic of pop obsession, then we’re birds of an iridescent feather too.

Dilpreet: Amazing! We hear a lot about “punching up” vs “punching down”. Do you follow any ‘rules’ while making people laugh?


Sunanda: I like to pull a lot from my life because I think you should write what you know. Of course, there is some artistic licence in telling a story, but if I shared anything that I entirely made up, it’s not going to have the weight for the audience, and I won’t actually be connecting to it. I think punching down is intolerable. I like to make fun of the systems of oppression, not just individuals who uphold the system because often, they are oppressed by the system they uphold. That just feels so absurd to me, and I think through my comedy, I want to convince people how absurd our systems are so that maybe we can begin to free ourselves from them.

Dilpreet: Although we’re seeing more and more South Asian Australians doing comedy, there’s still a long way to go. What does better representation look like for you?


Sunanda: I’m glad there are more South Asian Australians doing comedy. I do think there is a clear difference between pandering to what you think a mostly white audience wants to hear, which can sometimes mean comics I’ve heard are playing stereotypes without nuance versus speaking their truth. It’s a long and hard road to accurate and real representation and there are many battles for us to fight to truly be ourselves and stop explaining ourselves. To me, the more the merrier, which will create possibilities for us to break comedy norms and get into doing weird alternative comedy… because I like weird stuff.

Catch Sunanda Loves Britney at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 12 - April 24.
About the author

Dilpreet is the founder of South Asian Today. More about her can be found here.