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Tell the uncles and aunties we now have comebacks

Amna Bee and Garry Johal take over this insufferable task


Are you also tired of hiding your underboob tattoo when your mother visits? Or smoking in the bathroom with a portable fan? Or being "totally friends" with your boyfriend of 6 years? 


These are not personal examples. Or are they?


Anyway, comedians Amna Bee and Garry Johal are bringing a masterclass on how to survive being brown to this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival with their show 'Surviving Brown for Dummies'.


I speak with them about why they need to dig a hole that knows no end.



Dilpreet: Amna! This is your second year in a row at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Less jitters this year, I assume?


Amna: You'd think so! I just got back from Adelaide Fringe, and according to my therapist, I had the exact same roller coaster as I did last before the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and am going through it again. This particular show is nothing like what we've done before, so it's still very jittery.


Dilpreet: Please tell us more about 'Surviving Brown for Dummies'. How did y’all come up with the concept?


Garry: Amna and I were exchanging funny little anecdotes about our upbringing, like the proper etiquette when someone asks you if you want a soft drink, which ought to be straightforward, but in the brown world, you have to navigate through a labyrinth of rules and conventions, factor in “what will people say”, and perhaps the level of scolding one would receive later on from parents if you had to the gall to say yes without first refusing it the requisite three times. 

So we thought wouldn't it be funny if there was a survival guide for growing up brown. And that’s how it started.

 

Dilpreet: Amna, you grew up in a conservative environment. Would you consider yourself as someone who has successfully survived being brown? Indulge us into an incident that taught you a trick or two.

 

Amna: I've certainly made my escape and created my own path while also maintaining ties with my culture, so I’d say I survived being brown! 


It’s good to know how to play the game, especially around the aunties, by making by own rules.


For example, a long time ago, an aunty I barely knew asked me outside a grocery store in Peshawar quite sweetly when I was planning on getting married. I smiled back even more sweetly and asked her how her daughter's divorce was coming along.


Dilpreet: Why do you want South Asians to watch the show?


Garry: It’s for them! While there are some universal themes in our show (clashing cultures/generations, fish out of water, societal pressures etc.), South Asians, in particular, will relate to the anecdotes, jokes and stories in this show. And if they don't, our mums will scold them. Just kidding - they’ll only scold us. 


Dilpreet: This year looks great for brown comedians in Australia. What are some of your dreams and hopes moving forward as the demand for better representation finds deeper ground?


Amna: It’s really fantastic how we're seeing so many talented brown comics this year, going beyond being chosen to 'diversify' a lineup and being seen for the great comics that they truly are. 


Garry: We'd love for more South Asians in Australia to watch comedy. They love their Bollywood, and a lot of them love the likes of Russell Peters, but they don't venture outside the 'big' names. We hope they'll start supporting local, emerging talent and take a chance! It has been surprising to see majority-white audiences for Asian comedy nights, and to be honest, we as Asian comics are delighted when there are people like us in the audience because they really get our jokes.


Catch 'Surviving Brown for Dummies' at Melbourne International Comedy Festival by booking your tickets here

About the author

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

 

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