AFTER many years in journalism, Suchandrika Chakrabarti found her true calling with comedy in January 2020.
Since then, she has beautifully balanced stand-up comedy with writing for popular shows like Radio 4’s The News Quiz and BBC One’s Have I Got News For You. She took her live debut I Miss Amy Winehouse, on a short international tour, before a month-long run at Edinburgh Fringe in 2022 and recently commenced a UK tour of her second comedy show, Doomscrolling.
Eastern Eye caught up with the British Asian comic talent to find out more.
What first connected you to comedy?
I grew up in a house filled with laughter. Being funny was definitely part of my parents’ love language. As a family, we would do things like watch Have I Got News For You together on a Friday night.
How does writing comedy for a TV show compare to performing stand-up?
It’s all about tone. With TV, it’s about writing in the voice of the show or host. With stand-up, for me, it’s about writing and then finding the persona that emerges.
Tell us about your show Doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling is about the speed of the news these days and what it’s doing to us. As a former journalist who worked in intense breaking news environments, I doom scrolled on a professional level, both looking for and sharing stories. It wasn’t great for my mental health. I like to think that I’ve now recovered from that addiction and I’m ready to help heal others. Doomscrolling is a live show and a clinic (I am not a medical professional).
What initially inspired the show?
How I am going to explain this intensely messy era to my niece, who’s now five. The British political events of August September 2022, including a 45-day prime minister who tanked the economy, a new chancellor every month for four months and the queue for the queen. On a more general level, the climate crisis and how we report it.
How much of your comedy is inspired by your own personal life?
I think a good stand-up has to begin with something real and personal, or the audience doesn’t buy in and start building that trust with you. I’ve generally steered away from talking about breakups or very intimate stories that involve other people in my life, who don’t also have this kind of platform to speak from. Having said that, grief was the main theme of my first Edinburgh show, I Miss Amy Winehouse. I had boundaries around who I would talk about in the show and how I would approach such a tricky subject. I made sure I first showed the piece to the people who had also felt the loss that I had been through.
How do you feel being on stage?
On a good day, there is absolutely nothing going on in my mind, I appreciate the laughter but barely hear it and it all just flows – then I look up and the time has just disappeared. On a bad day, it feels like wading through treacle in an extremely loud silence, only to find out that the treacle’s been privatised and now that wading is going to cost me a whole lot.
What according to you makes for great stand-up comedy?
Authenticity and that little spark.
Who is your own comedy hero?
My dad and the early 1980s line-up of The Comic Strip.
What has been your most memorable encounter on your comedy travels?
A guy who had clearly been dragged to my show and was drinking through it, who heckled me with “I don’t even know who Amy Winehouse is.” I nearly handed him the mic.
Who is the funniest person you know?
My niece. She’s already got a strong bit about sausage dogs and why she should have one.
Has being funny ever got you out of trouble?
Definitely, but my lawyers say I need to stop talking about that case.
Why should we all come watch Doomscrolling?
You’ll have to put your phone down for the full hour of my show, so you can’t actually doomscroll for 60 minutes. A win for your screentime app. Plus it’s loads of fun and there’s nothing better for dealing with a horrible tumultuous political and economic time than revolution – er, I mean laughter. I’ll bring the LOLs.
Catch Doom scrolling at The Bill Murray in London on September 19 at 5.30pm, at The Bread & Roses Theater, as part of Clapham Fringe on September 30 at 5pm and at Fierce Bar, Manchester, as part of Women in Comedy Festival on October 11 a 7.15pm. Twitter: @SuchandrikaC and Instagram: @suchandrika