Written by Taraana Madhok
After stand-up artiste Sharul Channa (pictured) aka Pottymouth performed a set in Sydney, Australia, a man came up to her and said, “you’re very funny for a woman”. She shot back, “You’re very honest for a man”. Channa is travelling through India with her show, ‘Pottymouth by Sharul Channa’, which she has been performing for the past two years in Singapore, where she lives, as part of International Women’s Day.
After performances in Pune and Chandigarh, Channa will be performing in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, among others. At Austin 40 Cafehouse in Pune and Platinum Arts Club, Chandigarh, she kept the house laughing while dealing with issues such as womanhood, women’s experiences and challenges. She remembered the misogynistic vows at her wedding, as well as the time she flew to India for her grandmother’s last rites and the priest, told her, ‘Women can’t attend funerals’.
“Women need a voice, they have so much to talk about. I use my sets to clear the misconception about feminism being synonymous with male bashing. I prefer to focus on how the interpretation of religion is the root of the poor treatment of women,” she says.
The name Pottymouth came about as a result of a show. Channa happened to have joked about a newspaper at one of her performances in Singapore and, as luck would have it, a journalist from the publication was in the audience. The journalist took offence, called her a ‘Pottymouth’ and Channa had found a name for herself. “I liked the word so much that I emailed the journalist asking if I could use it for my tour,” she says.
Though she moved to Singapore almost immediately after she was born and has been there ever since, she says that her jokes aren’t “the typical Indian NRI types about traffic and cows in the middle of the roads”. She adds that her parents would bring her back to India every year. “They wanted me to be street smart,” she says. Her set also delves into typical desi traits, such as believing that a bottle of haldi can have the power to solve the most treacherous of calamities.
“There are no accidents in stand-up comedy. You don’t choose it, it chooses you,” says Channa. She was at an open mic at a club in Singapore when the owner noticed that there were no female performers. Given her theatre background, he asked her to perform. “The moment I got my first laugh, I was hooked,” she says. “Stand up is a calling. Comedy forces you to break the fourth wall: You need to look the audience in the eye. There’s no hiding behind a character here,” she explains, emphasising how comedians need to bare their souls to the crowd. “My performances are like therapy sessions for me,” she adds.
She describes her style of comedy as “a mix of observational and self- deprecating humour”. “I initially test my set at an open mic, see where I get the laughs and then fine-tune it,” she says. “I believe in the 100-ball theory,” she adds, “you should fail at something at least a 100 times before giving it up,” says Channa.