Trauma is the one thing we all can bond over: Stand-up-comedian Fatima Ayesha

Stand-up comedian Fatima Ayesha was in Hyderabad recently for her show Koi Nahi Dekhega. CE speaks with her to learn about her journey and more.
Stand-up comedian Fatima Ayesha. (Photo | Express)
Stand-up comedian Fatima Ayesha. (Photo | Express)

HYDERABAD: Civil engineer-turned-stand-up-comedian, Fatima Ayesha was in the city recently for her show Koi Nahi Dekhega. Hailing from Thane, Maharashtra, she has been in the world of comedy for the last five years. With four million views on YouTube and a viral reel on Instagram touching 21 million views, she has been steadily grounding herself in the hearts of audiences. She also won the ‘Sterling Reserve Comedy Project Season 2’ on Comedy Central India. Since then, she has appeared as an actress multiple times on Sony LIV, Star Plus, and Comedy Central. CE speaks with her to learn about her journey and more

What inspired you to become a comedian?
When I was going through tough times in my life, stand-up comedy acted as therapy (back then I didn’t know about actual therapy). All these comedians helped me keep my life going with their jokes. In my head, I was friends with all of them. When things improved, I thought of doing the same thing for other people. I could be their friend now. I started doing comedy to basically give back what I took from comedy.

How do you come up with new material and jokes, and what is your process for testing them out on stage?
I observe my life a lot! Sometimes, I go back in time and think about how an incident made me feel. The more embarrassing and older the incident, the funnier my perspective is. I think, we all look back in time and realise that our naivete is always funny. I remember once I asked my dad ‘why do they ‘write use dipper at night’ behind trucks. He pranked me by saying ‘It’s not dipper, it’s diaper’. All truck drivers wear diapers at night because they can’t stop for nature’s call and I continued to believe that till I was a teenager. My process is, just going on stage and talking to the audience like I would talk to my friends. It is so simple, I love it.

How do you handle a tough crowd or a joke that doesn’t land well?
A comedian once told me ‘There is no such thing as a tough crowd. You just need to have different types of jokes for all types of audiences.’ I agree with this comedian for the first 20 minutes of the show (laughs). Even after 20 minutes, if the audience is not on board, and once I feel they are not laughing despite me giving my 100%, I just do my time and leave. I try not to think about it too much afterward and start preparing for the next show. Once you know stand-up comedy is your lifetime calling, one show seems trivial.

In your opinion, what is the most important element of a successful comedy routine?
Surprise! That’s my favorite element in all my favorite bits, the ones that I enjoy watching and the ones I have written myself.

You draw a lot from everyday life in your comic routines. How challenging is it to bring the mundane into the comic realm?
I have this entire set of jokes on taking cabs and autos. Travel to work is mundane, yes! But the fact that it is mundane for all of us, makes the audience relate to it. In fact, I believe the more boring the activity, the more fun you can make it. Because all of us are suffering through that boredom together. If I say, ‘I hate doing dishes,’ I immediately get the audience’s attention because they hate it too. Then even if I rant about simple things like soap and water, they also start imagining and laughing. The audience puts themselves in your place – it’s pretty magical how that works.

Can you share a particularly memorable experience or story from your time as a comedian?
There was a teacher in my audience. She was there with her husband and kids. She kept talking through the entire show because she was so excited to watch me live. She told me how my show was and the only time she could be rowdy was during the show, as otherwise, she has to be quite strict and disciplined at school. This was her day off. Throughout the show, I engaged in her banter. I never shut down hecklers, if they are enjoying and the rest of the audience is enjoying, I don’t mind. I engaged with her so much that after the show, an audience member went and touched her feet and said ‘Your daughter Fatima is very funny.’ The audience member thought that the heckler ma’am was my mom. I never corrected him. Even she replied by saying, ‘Yes, I know my daughter is talented.’

How do you think humour and laughter can help bring people together and promote positivity in the world?
My show talks about religious differences, identity and childhood trauma. I talk about how sharing our personal struggles with each other is becoming more and more difficult. We are scared of being judged and misunderstood. Sometimes, we don’t find the right people to listen to us. Patience is becoming rare. Throughout the show, I tell the audience to not keep too much inside. Once you open up, you discover lifelong bonds. That’s my way of bringing the audience together. Trauma is the one thing we all can bond over. 

Who are some of your biggest comedic influences or inspirations?
Amongst Indian comedians, I got to thank Zakir Khan for starting comedy in Hindi. Otherwise, I would never do comedy because I am not confident in English. Mandar Bhide for pioneering stand-up comedy in his mother tongue, Marathi. Because of him, I did stand up in Marathi also. The biggest comedic inspiration for me is Rajasekhar Mammidana from Hyderabad. He is the only comedian who sat me down and taught me how to write stand-up comedy. I mean, he is so nice. Who else does that? 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in comedy?
Try it immediately. Either you’ll absolutely hate it or you’ll get addicted to it. Either way, it’s such a relief! I recommend it to everyone, you must definitely get the experience once. You’ll either enjoy it, or you will have a funny story to tell at parties about how you bombed. 

What are some upcoming projects or performances that your fans can look forward to?
I am currently touring my one-hour special called Koi Nahi Dekhega all across India. I will be performing in Bengaluru on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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