Ahead of our International Women’s Day event Stand Up for Women, we spoke with comedian Jo Gowda about the high and lows of stand up, her past life as a former cricket player, and the value of being your authentic self in comedy.

When did you realise you’re funny?
A childhood memory comes to mind, I was probably in 4th grade and was spending summer holidays at my grandmother’s house which was a very strict environment. One afternoon I was just being myself and goofing around with my aunties making them laugh and one of them said ”she’s got a good sense of humour”. It was the first time I had heard that phrase and it made me feel like I had found my superpower.

What did it feel like the first time your stand-up jokes landed well with the crowd?
It was a surreal feeling, like I was watching myself from the outside. I felt so authentic being on stage telling jokes and I remember thinking ‘this is it, this is what I want to do’. There’s no better feeling than having a gig where the crowd is fully tune with you and are enjoying everything you say, it kind of feels like a warm hug from an old friend.

Do you remember a time when a joke didn’t go too well? Tell us about that.
I had a terrible gig quite recently in front of 500 odd people. There is no worse feeling than telling a crowd a story or your thoughts about a topic and it just falling flat! Anything performed live is quite intense with stand-up comedy being even more so. So, when a joke doesn’t work, you’re just standing there with zero response and that’s totally nerve racking. You quickly want to move on to your next joke. However, in the gap between the jokes your mind is racing a million miles per second. You feel like an absolute idiot, questioning why you choose to do this?

On ABC’s ‘Help Me I’m a Comedian’, you talked about your previous life as a cricket player and sports analyst. You wanted to transition into a sports career in Australia. What was it like trying to do that?
Australia is synonymous with sports and like India cricket is a major sport here too. I grew up watching and admiring Australian cricketers like Glen McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne. So yes, when I moved here, I was very keen to continue working in sports analytics.

I contacted lots of recruiters and sports organisations but unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of opportunities going around. Months passed and I still had no signs of getting a job. When you move to a new country, you rely on your skills to make it and not being able to do that made me feel really dejected, in fact it still hurts when I think about it. Instead of my jokes, it felt like my resume was bombing!

You said in that interview that you never felt you had to be someone else here in Australia, and that “there is a bigger pressure to be very Indian”. What did you mean? How did that influence your comedy?
Immigrants face unconscious biases on the daily. You are perceived to be a particular way based on your background or where you come from. This can be even more when you have an accent. When only one aspect of who you are is heightened you begin to feel the pressures of it.

On the flip side, performing comedy in Australia has been very liberating for me, especially coming from a culture where I didn’t see a lot of women talk openly and freely about things. In Australia, I felt like there were no taboo topics that we weren’t allowed to talk about and that gave me a lot of confidence to be me. In my comedy, I firstly try to share my personal experiences as Jo, as a wife or mum and those experiences happen to be about an Indian woman, this I think gives my stories the perfect balance and flare.

You did a stand-up comedy course years ago. Where was that? Was there a moment during the course when you thought: “Well, that will not work with my material”?
I did Fiona McGary’s stand-up comedy workshop in 2019. It was a two-day workshop at the Sit Down Comedy Club. I was a new mum with my daughter being only 12 months old, there were lots of instances where I thought ‘’Umm, what the heck am I doing here?’’. I’m a mum, I am never going to talk about nudity or sex. But happy to report that I overcame the odds and I do enjoy a bit of blue comedy in my set now.

What makes a perfect monologue / stand up material for you?
I enjoy watching comedy that is authentic and an extension of the person. I find this kind of content really connects with the audience. When you build that trust with them, they will come with you on any journey you take them in your set. Which is super exciting and entertaining for everyone!

Apart from making people laugh, what do you think is the most rewarding thing about doing comedy?
I have had occasions where after a gig someone has come up to me and said ‘’I never thought about Arranged Marriages in such a way, thank you for that perspective’’. I have had immigrants from totally different cultures tell me how relatable my content was to them. These interactions make me feel really gratified and appreciative of comedy.

Stand Up for Women is a fundraising comedy show hosted by Multicultural Australia to celebrate of Australia’s diverse women and their communities through the stories and experiences from stellar lineup of all-female comedians. It’s happening at the Sit-Down Comedy Club Paddington. All proceeds from the event will assist migrant and refugee women affected by domestic and family violence.

Find out more here: https://lnkd.in/gSVSPmzb

By Celeste Macintosh