Stand-up comedy comes to the aid of disability in an unusual campaign in Mumbai. Called Sex and Sexability, the movement aims to use humour to make people more sensitive towards those facing mental and physical challenges. Hosted by comedian Aditi Mittal, the first event in the series will include acts by Robyn Lambird, Rohan Sabharwal, Chubby Methalaka, Nidhi Goyal and Neenu Kewlani—all who love the challenge of being challenged and extremely talented. We speak to them and the guys behind the initiative.
‘We have researched and discovered a lot of stand-up comedy online and we’ve come across some persons with disability using humour as a tool to help people understand the challenges faced by a person with disability on a daily basis. This is by no means an original idea. There are movements around the world that use stand-up comedy as a means to fight various stigma and to change the way people think. We were inspired by artists such as Maysoon Zayid and Josh Blue because their acts go beyond just talking about disability to attitudes, cultural perceptions,race. A lot of these stereotypes come from a long tradition in depictions in literature, theatre, art or any form of communication. These are deep-rooted in people. And career options are very limited for challenged people, especially in the performing arts. We have long seen only able bodied individuals portraying disabled characters and persons will disability rarely finding any employment in mainstream theatre or cinema even if the role is entirely about disability. We really want this inaccessibility and exclusion to end. During our hunt that took us around 60 days to find a space that was truly accessible from the stage, parking and entrance, we were shocked at the responses / lack of response from a lot of venues. Some spaces had ramps entering the audience seating but for an artist on a wheelchair there was no provision,’ says Rachana Iyer of CraYon Impact, the organisers.
What got you interested in Sex and Sexability?
I always wondered why this distance? Why this separation? I am thrilled that I am going to be the first comedian who stood on a 100% wheelchair accessible venue in Mumbai. I got invited to host Sex and Sexability by [filmmaker] Rohan Sabharwal and I was like Duh! Comedians tend to be spoken about more often in bad ways than in good ways. So if any of that speaking about happens in a good way and diverts attention to a cause that really needs it, then why not? Comedy has two functions, to establish power structures and bring people together. My general brand of comedy or what I always try to do is to bring people together and get them to sit and laugh. That is what I think Sex and Sexability is about. Now getting to the theme of the show... To me everyone has sex. "Hammam mein toh sabhi nangey hai" — when it comes to sex :)
Disability, sexuality and insensitivity. Your views.
This is the first time I am seeing these three words together. In this question. I was going through the website www.sexualityanddisability.org and I am truly blown by the things and myths that surround disability and sexuality. I feel like I too was complicit in perpetuating myths and that I let this happen in a larger scheme of things. I feel like even I was not aware. Disability and sexuality should get the recognition that they deserve.
Has the era of socially conscious comedy finally arrived in India?
No. Are you mad? About 99.9% of our comedy is still far from it. Even now, in a country of one billion people, only few of us are on stage. This is just the beginning. We will talk after around 300 of these.
Some always argue that any such special act is also a form of privileged discrimination. Your retort to that?
This is some latest fad. Everyone wants to feel like a victim to a large extent. There is no bigger victim than a regular middle class human being.
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