Comedian Radhika Vaz spoke about how humour can be used to educate people at SheThePeople.TV’s She Leads India summit, powered by UN Women, in collaboration with Colours TV and PwC India.
Using Humour to Educate and Inform:
Vaz tried to explain how when someone says something that bothers you, instead of being retaliatory, you can always use humour to educate them.
“There are a couple of things in life, biologically speaking, that you can’t fake — and one of them is laughter,” she said. “Laughter is instinctive and you can’t control it. So when you disarm people with humour, they take in the information you are trying to tell them without realising it, and then they can think about it and process it later.”
“Humour is not argumentative,” said Vaz. She said that she just makes jokes about things that bother her — like the assumption that men should be the sole breadwinner of the house, or that women must get married and must have children.
“Instead of ranting and alienating people, it is better to make jokes which can make people go ‘oh that is funny, and that makes sense’,” she said.
Moreover, it is easier for people to remember something when it is couched in funny terms, she explained. May be it will stick with them and they can even repeat it to other people.
Vaz came to comedy late. She never thought it would be a career. She said that she started thinking about it in her late thirties, and it was only five years ago, when she was 38, that she decided to go full time. She said that comedy luckily is not a young person’s industry. “Ladies you don’t have to be young or think to do comedy,” she jokingly said.
On the TVF Case:
She said that when she spoke to comedian friends, they all said it was an old story. But she said that it was not their story to tell. The person who it had happened to had to be comfortable with coming out about it. But it is real, and not imagined, and on the day the story broke, many comedians did voice their opinions.
She said that the case is sad, but not shocking.
“What surrounds sexual harassment hasn’t changed. Now we just have men in hipster beards harassing us.”
We still don’t talk to children about sex, or to young boys on how to behave with girls. We raise children without any knowledge of sexuality, and they go into schools and colleges where they are further segregated. Then they come to work and don’t know how to behave.
She said that she was always a feminist, and that helped her with her jokes, because a lot of what she wrote was about the injustices she had faced.
“The reason women don’t call themselves feminist is because the word comes with negative connotations, which have been made up by men.”
She spoke about a conversation she had with a young girl who works with the Women’s Commission. The girl was telling her all about the research she was doing on the maternity bill. But at the end of it, she wanted to clarify that she ‘wasn’t a major feminist or anything.”
Vaz told her that she was. “Who cares if some joker on a Whatsapp group think you are uptight? They aren’t your type of people,” she told the audience.
On Jokes Which Insult Women:
“Anyone who turns on you has their own issues. You have to give yourself confidence that this is beneath me,” she said.
She spoke about how in one of her writing workshops for women, she told them that they should focus on turning the negative into the positive. She said, “Don’t write the typical fat girl jokes, I am single, it does not have to be bad. Let’s see how these things can be positive for a change!”
We couldn’t agree more.