In less than a decade of arriving in the country,
Kaneez Surka has reached the top echelons of stand-up comedy in India.
She started off, though, with The Week That Wasn’t, a satirical show on CNN-IBN, in which she parodies everyone from Mamata Banerjee to your everyday, high- strung news-caster. And keeping true
to the ethos of comedy, she spares absolutely no one, including, in this interview, Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijaykar, with whom she works on The Week That Wasn’t, and Tushhar Kapoor, with whom she doesn’t.
Could you tell us a bit about the script-writing process behind The Week That Wasn’t? I am not personally involved in the script-writing process. However, I do know that Cyrus (Broacha) and Kunal (Vijaykar) get together every Wednesday – read newspapers and write out premises while occasionally discussing their non- existent sex lives. But seriously, that’s how the process starts and then the premises are written out into full-fledged sketches by Thursday and we shoot on Friday. What I love is that, being an improviser, Kunal, the director, allows me a lot of room to improvise on written scripts – where I get to add my spin on the sketches sometimes and which makes my job so much fun.
Could you name five major sources of material for comedy in India, apart from politicians? Comedy can come from anything. In India, I’ve found a lot of people find comic inspiration in:
b) Personal relationships (your classic saas/bahu dynamic)
c) Work places and the people they have to interact with (the boss, the peon, the secretary)
d) India’s public transport system.
e) Tushar Kapoor (He gets his own category, he doesn’t fall under Bollywood)
Stand-up is still in a relatively nascent phase in India. What factors can you identify that would help the genre evolve?
I have been a part of the comedy scene for the past six years as an improviser and sketch artist. I just
recently started stand up. As an open-mic-er on the stand-up scene, I feel, maybe more truth behind your
jokes is needed. I don’t always feel the emotional connect with what people are saying. I think that would
take the genre to a new level?
What is your take on the Hindi comedy shows that abound on television?
I have not seen any. Sorry – I generally find Hindi comedy loud, plus I don’t understand the language
Could you name a few stand-up artists, Indian or western, whose work you admire?
I love so many Indian comedians – Indian comedians are really, really good. I really admire Kenny Sebastian
and Tanmay Bhatt. I love Daniel Fernandes’s style. I love Abish Mathew’s endearing quality on stage, I love Kanan Gill’s story-telling ability. I love Varun Thakur’s delivery. I love Azeem Banatwala’s call-backs and
Sorabh Pant’s energy, just to name a few…
You’ve said that you once mulled journalism. What made you take up comedy in the first place?
I did mull journalism, once… I also mulled studying law. But after moving to India, I got a part in a scripted
improv show (yes, back in the day you could get away with anything – thank god that’s changed). Kunal and
Cyrus were writing a new show, The Week That Wasn’t, and were looking for a woman (for the show) – they
saw me, asked me to be a part of it and thus began my comedy journey. In 2009, I did an improv workshop
and realised it was my passion. And now I teach improv. I also recently started stand-up and have cowritten,
directed and acted in a two-woman sketch show.