Ruchika Chanana: How and when did you start becoming Unladylike?
Radhika Vaz: To quote the great Lady Gaga, ‘I was born this way’. However, I know for a fact that if you are not genetically blessed with unladylike qualities, you can still say, do and think things that will eventually make you as unladylike as I am.
Ruchika: Who or what inspires your impropriety?
Radhika: The status quo is probably my main motivator. There are all these expectations on women that mould our behavior at a very early age, expectation that our male counterparts don’t need to deal with. I find that old-fashioned and annoying.
Ruchika: What constitutes proper and improper behavior, according to Radhika Vaz?
Radhika: I cannot stand people who don’t say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I don’t care who you are or who you are speaking to – be polite you asshole.
Ruchika: Does the audience in America laugh at the same jokes as the audience in India?
Radhika: Yes they do. My act is not tilted towards pop culture so I don’t have to count on them getting my references. ‘Unladylike’ is more universal because it’s anecdotal and focuses on things that happen or occur to women everywhere.
Ruchika: Does Delhi feel like home? If not, what does it feel like?
Radhika: Not yet, I still feel like a nervous visitor in a very large, sprawling, diverse city.
Ruchika: Where do you get your material?
Radhika: Just life – it’s such a mess that funny things are happening around us all day, it’s just how you look at it.
Ruchika: What’s most fun: writing, performing, or shocking people out of their comfort zones?
Radhika: Performing definitely. Writing is probably the hardest part but once it’s done it’s also the part that gives me the greatest feeling of accomplishment. Performing is the reward after the writing; the energy exchange between the audience and me is like getting really high but without the drugs.
As for shocking people out of their comfort zones, I don’t really write with that intention – if it happens that I zap someone a little that’s fine but not something I go after.
Ruchika: What makes you laugh?
Radhika: Someone who takes him or herself too seriously – you are setting yourself up to fail and when you do it’s hilarious. I catch myself at it sometimes and feel foolish later.
Ruchika: What’s the secret to being funny?
Radhika: Timing I think. You can tell a really good joke badly, but if you have good timing then even a line like ‘pass me the coffee’ can come off as entertaining.
Ruchika: Many people don’t think Indians, especially Indian women, can be funny at all. In a funny man’s world, how do you prove them all wrong?
Radhika: By just doing it. It’s like how women couldn’t be doctors or pilots or policemen. Now we can do all that because some women said fuck that and did it. The problem we women have is that we are perfectionists and we inherently hate risk – and in comedy you have to let that all go. But we are funny.
Ruchika: Is this run of the show different from the last one?
Radhika: No, ‘Unladylike’ is a set act, I only changed it the first year that it played in New York because at the time I was still testing material. Now it’s the same show you saw in April. I am writing new material but that will be a whole new show.
Ruchika: Where is the Unlady going from here? Is there TV or film in the pipeline?
Radhika: Lets just say she is open for business and look at everything.
Ruchika: What’s the moral of your story?
Radhika: Some women just don’t have the heart, mind or body to be a lady – embrace that.