‘Anyone telling girls to be ladylike in this age needs a smack’

WHO: Daughter of an air force pilot, stand-up comedian Radhika Vaz was born in Mumbai and moved to New York in 2001. She created and performs her one-woman comedy routine Unladylike: The Pitfalls of Propriety.

Radhika Vaz, 39, Comedian
Radhika Vaz, 39, Comedienne

How did you get to be a stand-up comedian?
It probably came from being surrounded by people who had a good sense of humour about themselves and life, and who appreciated a good joke. And so, to get their attention I had to be funny too.
What do you think of the term ‘lady’?
It’s just old-fashioned and silly. Anyone telling their daughters to be ‘ladylike’ in this age needs a smack.
Is your audience mostly men or women?
Definitely more women. I do get a lot of guys from time to time. Guys dragged there by their women!
How do men react to you off the stage?
The smart ones get it. Others think I shouldn’t be “so over-the-top”. Hey, not everyone is going to love me, right?!
What are you like off the stage?
A wound-up, high-strung, naggy old cow. Recently I bought two books by Osho. I’m hoping they’ll teach me to calm the f**k down.
Where do you get the material for Unladylike?
From my life. I have a piece about my delayed puberty. I was probably the last girl in my dorm to get her period or wear a bra (or it felt like I was). It made me wonder if I was a proper woman in the first place.
It’s easier for men to embarrass themselves for a laugh. Women are supposed to be ‘dignified’.
Absolutely! I address this in my show too. We are expected to be ‘ladies’! Dignified, pretty, perfumed, all our dirt hidden behind a veil. I got beyond that because I was raised by two people who clearly thought ‘dignified behaviour’ was overrated! They never made me feel that as a girl I had to speak or act a certain way. I was a spoilt little sh*t, running about, shooting my mouth off.
Where do you find a better or easier audience? New York or Mumbai?
I can’t choose — it’s like picking a favourite child. Both cities have similar vibes and people.
Aradhna Wal is a Sub-Editor with Tehelka.