Tag Archives: Comedy

A Rising Comic’s Manifesto


DOHA, QATAR — “The laugh is political,” said cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. After doing standup comedy for nine months, him and I are in agreement.

As the only consistent female member of a regularly preforming group, each performance is an experience in neural multiplication, creating new brain pathways doctors say keeps away Alzheimer’s. Getting up on stage once a month is about one-tenth of what a comic would do elsewhere in the world. Because of the limited amount of venues, we do as many shows as we can.

Whether it’s once, or whether it’s five times a night, audience members come up and often say, “I could never get up on stage.” Those people are the nice ones.

There are others in the crowd that come in, sit in the front row, arms folded, and scowl as if to say go ahead, try and impress me.

The nights that I get the most laughs are the ones when I make fun of the trials and tribulations of our family of three: an Indian mother, a Thai-American husband, and a white-looking toddler. “Arab women seem concerned I’m running off with someone else’s child,” I say, and there is an explosion of laughter.

The origins of my standup are actually in essays I wrote about being a South Asian-American woman living in the Arabian Gulf where society is stratified by race and class. Most people of my skin color are nannies or janitors. When it came to making jokes, I stripped out the social commentary, and then had a list of readymade, comical situations. Yes, the irony of racial politics is funny.

But some nights, like this week, I have other material I want to try. Arabic language gaffes, mixups with my name, commonalities between South Asian and Arab culture. These don’t get the same belly laughs; I don’t have to hold punch lines until the crowd recovers. There were a row of women laughing, but as women are wont to do, chuckling to themselves politely.

I left the stage, knowing I had left the safe laughs to the side in order to take a risk. And that is the manifesto of creativity: trying, testing, adapting, working. I’ve read about Chris Rock who goes to small clubs and tests out hundreds of jokes before taking the best of the best on stage. I know Tina Fey’s now-popular show 30 Rock had almost no viewership in the early days. I’m not saying I’m Chris or Tina, but I am saying it takes a lot of work to be really good at what you do.

And that’s my giving a damn.


Dr. Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a well-traveled scholar of literature and a freelance writer based in Qatar. She is a co-founder of the Maktaba project, a Children’s Library concept starting up in Doha. Follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

More from Mohanalaskshmi:

»Seeing But Not Seen

»On-Stage But Off-Camera

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An Open Letter to God

By ANDREW FLYNN, Managing Editor

Dear God,

Hi there, it’s Drew of Phoenix…but I hope you already knew that, what with your special omniscient powers and all. If you can take a minute or two and read through this letter that my free will has allowed me to write, along with all of those other humanly gifts that you gave to me a long time ago, I’d surely appreciate it.

First up, do you even get letters anymore? Seeing is how we down here have all seemingly lost the ability to use any kind of penmanship, I might have already answered my own question there. Those folks on Downton Abbey still do it, I figured you may too. It’s still a valid question. I’m also curious if you have those big stereotypical mailbags of mail up there on that big cloud that you ride on, or if it’s all relegated to your email inbox. Are you a Gmail kind of Lord, or do you Yahoo!? Or maybe you have more enhanced technology than us humans down here on your number one favorite planet? It’s hard to say, since there’s not really any direct word from your particular postal code. Sure, we get a certain biblical image in our pastries and the occasional religious statue that seems to bleed, but I’m looking for something that is more “heaven-sent”.

Oh yes, I read your book…it’s kind of long-winded, don’t you think? It was like a Tom Clancy novel but with a whole lot more plot and twice as many characters. Did you mean all of it as literal, or was it just cleverly written to be pure allegory? I’m going to need clarification on this quandary I have going on with myself and the other humans. Some of us think one way, and some of us think another. And some of us take it a way that I almost guarantee you didn’t intend.

It’s been pretty dang cold the last month or so. Are you just trying to keep us Phoenicians on our toes? As you know, I’ve lived here my whole life. No one that is a native of this state has ever experienced wacky drive-time weather You’ve given us lately. And that one time a couple years ago with the snow during Christmastime…I mean, seriously, snow in the desert? What was that all about? It was 36 degrees for the high the day after your Son’s birthday. Suffice it to say, it surprised the snot out of us. Quite literally too, I had a runny nose for a week. That was one of those weeks where people were sneezing and the people nearby were asking you to bless them. Well, some people were asking…a lot of people would just command it or shout something multi-syllabic from the German language.

Speaking of commanding stuff, a lot of people curse things in your name. It seems to be happening more frequently. Look at basic cable television for example. We tend to scream your name in varying respects mid-coitus too. Maybe there’s just nothing else to say in those moments (or seconds) of passion and release. Is this part of your plan, or is it because humans are becoming more frustrated with their inability to predict lottery numbers and deal with bad drivers on the freeway?

I must say, Your Son is quite popular down here on Earth. Really, he’s the Man wherever people are, regardless of geography or political boundaries. So much, in fact, that people scream his name out loud for whole plethora of reasons. That must have been your goal all along. You would almost think that Mr. Of Nazareth is running for political office, and that would be a good thing, because his “name identification” is through the roof! I would consider voting for him as well if he wore more professional-looking attire, and not those hippie-ass Birkenstock sandals.

I want to thank You for many things. Specifically, for Ferris wheels, Save Ferris, Ferris Industries, Ferris State University (go Bulldogs!), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That was a very funny and enjoyable movie. The main actor in that film hasn’t made many other good movies though. There was that one about the Civil War and the other one about the high school election, and that’s really about it. Can you possibly look into helping out his sagging career? Maybe you can have that nice man Kirk Cameron give him a call…although that guy has been a bit of a fundamentalist toolbag for the last 15 years, so maybe not.

In closing, I have news that I’ll be going on a road trip to Los Angeles pretty soon. Do you recommend that I get one of those plastic-molded Catholic saint dolls to guide me there safely? Since you’re up there, I think I can drive there pretty well as long as I have your Northstar and my Garmin going.

You’re doing a great job, so feel free to take Sunday off with the rest of us and enjoy some American football. There’s that one dude on the Broncos who sure does like your family a whole lot.

Drew {: )

Editor’s Note: This is a work of satire. If you think this is meant to be taken seriously, then you’re part of the problem.


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