Aditi Mittal is one of India’s first female stand-ups, but anyone hoping to encounter a new and distinctive style of comedy is in for a disappointment. Cut and paste the subject matter, and this is your standard observational set that could be heard in any comedy club in the UK. That’s not to dismiss it. She’s a good performer, and within that oeuvre, it’s a perfectly serviceable hour. It’s just interesting to note how globalisation operates in comedy too, reducing cultural differences to a stock format and easy signifiers like those HSBC “world’s local bank” ads.
A clue to the reason for this comes in Mittal’s discussion of India’s caste system. She places herself in the upper, upper, upper, upper middle class (as indeed she probably had to be to make it here). With little personal hardship to mine and give the show bite, she has to largely depersonalise and go for the big picture – the broad differences between India and the UK.
Another stylistic trait is the use of statistics to introduce her stories. A couple of times she mock disparages the set as being “like a TED talk“. But again, you’ve detected that vibe before the reason for it becomes apparent. She’s been working with the BBC on their season marking the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India. So she’s here to inform and educate, not *just* to entertain. There’s a section on the religions of India, for instance, which she gets amusement value out of fine enough, but it feels like a topic selected for its informative value rather than for its inherent comedy.
No surprise then that her best bits are the ones that depart from that template. She has a friendly but sly dig at the Beeb and a more extended one about colonialism in general. She also has a good bit on the cultural differences in toileting rituals. It’s very mildly gross, so has a bit of edge, but more importantly, it’s not one of your failsafe cultural difference topics like the curry eating material she did earlier.
There’s an observably larger Asian contingent in the audience tonight, which is both encouraging and alarming. Non-white audiences are out there getting their dose of Fringe, but are we at risk of cultural ghettoisation given the whiteness elsewhere?
Mittal herself, of course, could work with any audience. But it would be good to hear her doing something less constrained, less Beeb-friendly.