What shaped Aarti Vincent’s path to comedy

By Indira Laisram
Aarti Vincent

In 2007, just a year old in Melbourne and relatively new, Aarti Vincent was out with a friend strolling the CBD on a 40-plus degree day. After walking four km to get a Slurpee drink, they found themselves accidentally inside a shoe shop when the shopkeeper remarked to Vincent, “You look hot.” In all modesty, she replied, “Thank you,” when the friend burst out laughing. Vincent mistook the polite weather conversation for a compliment, because in Delhi, where she comes from, hot cannot mean anything other than drop dead gorgeous!

Which is why, you never ask comedians how they survive on wits because they either try to find a way for it or have life experiences to joke around.

And because Vincent is originally from India, she does like to dissect some of the incidents connected to her roots. As a yoga teacher once in Melbourne, she befuddled many who thought she grew up on a diet of yoga. “The truth is, I learnt yoga in Melbourne from a white yoga teacher because, you know, when I was growing up in India it was a daggy thing to do yoga.”

Vincent has lived almost 14 years in Australia. And in these years has discovered enough experiences to shape her path towards comedy. All set to perform for the first time at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Vincent is bringing content based on her experiences as an Indian in Australia, among other things, discussing skin colour, yoga and more. The festival, she says, is a quantum leap in her fledgling career.

Picture Credit: Michael Reynolds

Vincent started out in 2018 because her initial years in Australia were spent working in advertising agencies as a TV producer and raising a child, who is now eight-years old. It was also her career portfolio in India working in organisations such as Siddarth Basu’s Synergy Communications.

The corporate career also stayed because much as she wanted to continue with theatre, her other love, she realised it was a tough one to crack here. In Delhi, Vincent had worked for Barry John’s Theatre Action Group (TAG) and Ranjit Kapoor, to name a few, and performed at Mandi House, Kamani Auditorium and the India Habitat Centre.

“In all fairness, I did go for audition during my first week of being in Melbourne but I had no idea of how everything works here. Of course, I didn’t get a role because it is hard for me to fit into a British family, for instance,” she says, adding, “I thought it would be like how in Delhi we just pick up any play, say, a British comedy where a Ramesh can be a Roger.” After that, she just didn’t think much about it.

Comedian Aarti Vincent

But amid the blitz of this career in the ad world, Vincent really wanted to get back on stage. “I thought how about I write my own comedy and start doing something in that space.”

So she started doing five-minutes open mics in places such as Club Voltaire, Free Comedy at Highlander and Guerilla – Stand-Up Comedy at The Resistance in Hawthorn. By her own telling, she went into it with the notion to tell her experiences from day to day living and not armed with a bag of characters from which to pluck. “My subject is not necessarily Indian, it’s mostly short snippets of observations.”

Asked if she knew she was always funny, Vincent quips, “But it wasn’t like ‘Oh I want to be a comedian.’ It is only after I became a comedian that people said, ‘you were always funny’ – as a kind of an after-thought!”

Picture Credit: Michael Reynolds

Talking about the reactions of her family in India who discovered her gigs on Facebook, Vincent says she has to keep updating her mother who she is ‘not too with it’. “My mother has always wondered about me since the time I was living with her. She would ask ‘what is it that you keep doing’ or ‘do you have a new best friend every day’?”

Her husband, on the other hand, laughs at her jokes but at times blurts out, “I know the joke is on me and I don’t find it funny.”

But as the audience reacts, that’s what makes Vincent press on. She does recall this one performance where everyone laughed except one woman who wore a serious face throughout. However, at the end of the show the woman walked up to Vincent and told her how much she enjoyed it.

Photo Credit: Farah Iyer

“That reminded me of my dad. No matter how funny a thing is, he always has a straight face and at the most he will have a smirk. I think till the time people are enjoying, it is OK even if they don’t express with laughter. Of course, people laughing gives you the biggest high, you start equally enjoying yourself on stage, it’s an energy exchange,” says Vincent.

As the opportunities to justify her work continue to present themselves, she admits she has a long way to go despite having come a long way. “Right now, I am doing it for the love of it. It is the first step.”

As we end our conversation, Vincent asks me if I would like some COMPS. On expressing my ignorance for the term, she has a bit of a laugh. I think I have just given her some dope for her acts. “Come to my show,” she implores.

Funny enough, new enough, right enough to hit the big time!

(Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs from 30 march to 11 April. Aarti Vincent performs at Club Voltaire for 12 nights)

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