• Saturday, June 22, 2024


Anu Vaidyanathan: The comedy Blimp getting ready to rise

The comedian will be taking her stand-up show Blimp to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, after some preview performances

Anu Vaidyanathan

By: Asjad Nazir

A UNIQUE journey led Anu Vaidyanathan towards becoming a stand-up comedian.

After her success as an athlete, which included becoming the first Indian woman to qualify for the Half Ironman 70.3 Clearwater World Championship in 2008, she wrote a memoir on her life in sport and turned down film studios, wanting to option the book.

This then led her towards training as a filmmaker and while learning how to direct a comic performance, she found stand-up comedy. What initially started off as something to help her become a better film director turned into a passion and a laughter-filled stage journey entertaining audiences.

She will be taking her stand-up show Blimp to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, after some preview performances, and was happy to discuss it with Eastern Eye. The cool comic also talked about live performances, inspirations, and the funny people she knows.

Tell us about your show Blimp?
Blimp is the love child of my two major pursuits, filmmaking and motherhood. It is a comic take on what the life of a female artist/ filmmaker looks like. I am an engineer by training, and it has been quite an education to step into the more subjective realm of the arts. I paint the story of several misadventures along the road with a through-line that people can hopefully relate to.

How much of the show is based on personal experiences?
As a writer, nearly everything I write has a landing point in memory, lived experience or extrapolation. I am wary of assigning percentages and take several creative, fictive liberties, but over time and in workshopping the new show, I believe relatability is key. It delights me no end that my day-to-day struggles, quandaries, and discombobulation is what audiences seem to chuckle most about.

What made you title the show Blimp?
This is a very short story. I was thinking of a metaphor and a hot-air balloon now only used for advertisements seemed perfect to talk about a woman’s voice.

How much are you looking forward to performing at the Edinburgh Fringe?
I know every edition of an experience is unique and this year I am a little stretched because my first show, BC:AD – Before Children, After Diapers, is still touring. I have a dozen dates of this left, ending on July 20. I have simultaneously been workshopping my new show, Blimp, slowly and steadily. In my first year, I thought of Edinburgh as an exotic mecca with a confluence of artistic energy like no other. The rain didn’t bother me. The indignantly cute Scottish grannies who corrected ‘diaper’ to ‘nappy’ embraced me. The flyering damn near killed me. This year, I feel a bit more settled.

Why is that?
I know why I am going and how to manage my expectations. My imperative is to make work, keep it fresh and give writing and performing their due. I love comedy because it feels like a quicker feedback loop creatively than writing books or making films. I love flyering because it is brain candy to run into that many people – their whims, love, and inebriation, on life or other substances. I have learned with time that people are not so bad and there is a place for everyone.

How do you feel before going on stage?
Depends on the day. I always have a healthy amount of butterflies. The great Camille Sullivan told me about David Bowie’s take on this subject – that butterflies are important. I believe if that is good enough for David Bowie, it is good enough for me.

Do you sometimes feel like you reveal too much?
Always. I wear my heart on a sleeve, which is quite a difficult thing to do after many decades of being a very neurotic engineer.

Who is your comedy hero?
I have no heroes and no heroines. I am my own hero. Simply because it is too dysmorphic to want to find your answers in the lives of others.

Has being funny ever helped you in real life?
Not too many times but having a sense of humour has helped.

What inspires you as a comedian?
I want to go out laughing. I’ve read about the psychology of a laugh originating in the depths of despair and relate to that. Being south Indian, my relationship with the arts is also distant from moneymaking. It delights me to be able to bring a smile to anyone’s face, leave them thinking about what something really meant and honestly, it’s a better bedside manner than a serious take on any subject.

Tell us about that?
I love words. Those of Mr (Aldous) Huxley ring true in this case – “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Who is the funniest person you know in real life?
There isn’t just one. I am lucky to have been adopted by a village in my comedy life. Rob Rouse, Camille Sullivan, Sasha Ellen, Posey Mehta, Sindhu Vee, Eshaan Akbar; these names I know a bit more than just on stage and love. Michelle Wolff, Guy Montgomery, and Myra Dubois I know just from afar and think are very funny.

Why should we all come watch your show at Edinburgh Fringe?
To live out and laugh with the experiences of the lowest common denominator in life, a mom. With aspirations.

Anu Vaidyanathan: Blimp at Underbelly, Bristo Square, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG from
August 2-13 and 15-19. tickets.edfringe.com Catch a preview of the show at Pen Theatre in London on July 28. www.anuvaidyanathan.com

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