Manjusha Banerjee, an inspiration for women in stand-up comedy

News Hour:

Manjusha Banerjee is an Indian stand-up comedian, originally from Kolkata. Apart from this, she is also an IT professional. She created a character called “Ruposhee” which is roleplayed by her. News Hour had an opportunity to take her interview online. The whole interview has been provided below for readers.

News Hour: How are you? Thank You, Manjusha for giving us an interview.

Manjusha Banerjee: I am fine, Thank You and it’s my pleasure.

News Hour: How and when did you get your start in stand-up comedy?

Manjusha Banerjee: I was born in Kolkata and I moved to Bangalore for my IT job. By the end of 2014, I moved to Hyderabad as my husband got a new job in the city, I took intercity transfer in my job. In Hyderabad I had no friends as such and started going to meetings of Toastmasters International, a club for public speaking, hoping to meet new people. There I met an eminent stand-up comedian who eventually introduced me to the comedy scene.

News Hour: How did you build up comedy as your passion?

Manjusha Banerjee: I was always a slightly goofy and loud person since childhood. With age, I kind of became sarcastic as well. To be honest, in my head it was never about “comedy”, it was always about entertaining people, making them laugh, just help them have a good time.

News Hour: Who are your inspirations?

Manjusha Banerjee: My father is the funniest man I know. My husband is pretty funny and fun to be around.
But as comedians, I really look up to the cast of American TV show Saturday Night Live, especially Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. These women are amazing actresses and I genuinely aspire to become like them someday.

News Hour: Who is the inspiration behind your decision to become a standup comedian?

Manjusha Banerjee: The entire fraternity of Hyderabadi stand-up comedians. They were my only friends when I came to this city and pushed me to become what I am today.

News Hour: What is it like being a woman in comedy?

Manjusha Banerjee: Personally speaking, its like any other job. But since the number of women are less in this field a lot of people are genuinely supportive and truly want you to do better and be more successful. Some obvious sexism is there, like the very term “female comic”, also I get inquisitive people asking me how does my husband “allow” me to do comedy. But I guess that’s part and parcel of being a woman anyway. But fortunately change is coming, and its coming rather fast.

News Hour: What qualities do other comedians have that you admire?

Manjusha Banerjee: I admire Biswa Kalyan Rath for his ability to take up the most mundane things that we have all seen in our lives and give it the craziest yet most insightful twist to bring out comedy.

News Hour: How fast can a person progress in stand-up comedy?

Manjusha Banerjee: Depends on multiple things actually. Obviously, you need to be funny and confident onstage. But other than that personal ambition also plays a role. Like for me, it’s an out and out hobby. So I write slow, perform only on weekends etc. But if you are genuinely interested to make it a profession and keep writing good stuff it’s easy to progress in this filed. Like most other fields hard work gives good returns here too.

News Hour: How does someone get started in stand-up comedy?

Manjusha Banerjee: First of all, you need to get info on open mics happening in your city. That’s the only way to start off. Try out your material in open mics, fine tune it and you are ready to go.

News Hour: How did you get the idea of Ruposhee? What is Ruposhee’s act about?

Manjusha Banerjee: Ruposhee was just supposed to be a fun Bengali new-year wish. I was getting bored at home and really wanted to do something special for the new year. The idea of the character came to my mind and I told my husband about it. I also asked him for a name. He suggested Ruposhee (which means a pretty woman) as the character seemed to be vain and a little self-obsessed. The character Ruposhee is a jibe at all those people in the world who relate intelligence with English speaking abilities. In the comments section, you will still see people concentrating more on “how” she talks rather than “what” she talks. It is my way of making fun of those kinds of people.

 

News Hour: Can you describe the Ruposhi character in brief?

Manjusha Banerjee: Ruposhee is a simple soul and less exposed to the modern western world. She is trying to catch up though. She is slightly self-obsessed, but she is also kind and feels for others. She is sarcastic too, but I don’t think she realizes that about herself. She is not dumb but has a unique way of looking at the world.

News Hour: Do you perform in stage/live or only in videos?

Manjusha Banerjee: I am doing stage shows for more than a year now. Videos are just 4 months old.

News Hour: Apart from stand-up comedy, what do you do?

Manjusha Banerjee: I have my day job at an IT firm. Working there for 6 years now. I also do my daily wifely duties of setting up and maintaining a home along with my husband.

News Hour: Tell us if you had any hindrance in your path that time.

Manjusha Banerjee: Fortunately enough, there hasn’t been much of hindrance in my life in general. Pretty much a smooth ride. I guess I have awesome family and friends, touchwood.

News Hour: What advice would you give new comedians just starting out?

Manjusha Banerjee: Keep writing. That’s the only way to move forward.

News Hour: Do you want to give any message to your fans from Bangladesh?

Manjusha Banerjee: The biggest response I have got for Ruposhee is from Bangladesh and it’s so overwhelming. I have received tons of genuine compliments and critical feedback from followers in Bangladesh and it really means a lot to me. My maternal grandfather came to Kolkata from Chittagong during the war and I still have many relatives there and in a way, all this love from your country felt like a reconnection with my roots. I wish to visit your country and meet all the wonderful people very soon.

News Hour: That’s very good to hear. You are cordially invited and welcome to Bangladesh. Anyway, Before I finish taking your interview, I would like to ask about your family.

Manjusha Banerjee: Well, my immediate family is just my husband and me in Hyderabad, tiny family. My parents and in laws are in Kolkata. We are both single children to our parents, so pretty over pampered, to be honest. Haha!!

News Hour: Thank you Manjusha for giving us time. It was really nice taking the interview.

Manjusha Banerjee: It’s my pleasure. I wish News Hour good luck. My good-wishes for Bangladeshi people.

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Mehrab Masayeed Habib studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) at American International University Bangladesh (AIUB). Currently, he is working for News Hour. He is passionate about automobiles. He is also the founder & trainer of Bangla Automobile School. He conducts workshops on automobile engineering at local level.

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