• Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Sukh Ojla: All about The Aunty Years

And ,the comedian on stage.

By: Asjad Nazir

MORE than 30 shows already scheduled of her newly commenced UK tour and many getting sold out well in advance, illustrates just how incredibly popular Sukh Ojla has become.

That success is a result of a stunning rise on the stand-up circuit in a relatively short space of time, which has quickly established her as one of the finest British Asian female comedians of all time.

Whether it has been her acclaimed novel Sunny or laughter-filled live sets, relatability has been a big key to the top talent’s triumphs and made tickets for her new show The Aunty Years hotly in demand. The autobiographical show based on her turning 40 this year adds an exciting new chapter to a story that has turned into an adventure.

Eastern Eye caught up with the comic to discuss her journey, new show, important life lessons and creative inspirations. The loveable personality a winning smile also gave advice for women wanting to follow in her footsteps in a male dominated comedy domain.

Your success in recent years has been extraordinary. Have you had a chance to enjoy it all?

In the past, I have been notoriously terrible at taking any down time. A combination of being a child of immigrant guilt, late stage capitalism and being self-employed means that I find it incredibly difficult to relax. It’s something that I am trying to get better at though.

Did you ever imagine becoming such a successful stand-up comedian in such a short space of time?

Not at all. I had no desire to do stand up until I took a comedy workshop back in 2015. And even then, I didn’t realise it was a stand-up comedy workshop. If I had, I might not have attended. I feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the support of some amazing people including my team at Curtis Brown and Altaf Sarwar of Luv Entertainment, who have believed in me since day one.

Tell us about The Aunty Years.  

This new show coincides with me turning 40 this summer. It’s about getting older, making peace with the fact that I’m turning into my mum and realising that no matter how old I am, I’m always going to feel like a lost toddler in a supermarket.

What inspired the interesting title?

I realised that the women I called aunties growing up weren’t as ancient as I thought they were. In fact, they were probably in their 30s. I wanted to reclaim the word ‘aunty’ as it can be used as an insult against women, and I wanted to embrace the title as I enter my forties.

 How much of the show is based on your personal experiences? 

Pretty much all of it is inspired by personal experiences. Almost all of my material is autobiographical, partly because I don’t have the imagination to make anything up and partly because nothing is as funny or as strange as real life. I talk a lot about my childhood, including being an only child and lucky enough to grow up in a pre-social media and internet world.

 What are important life lessons you have learned as you approach 40? 

The main lesson I’ve learned is no one really knows what they’re doing, regardless of their age. We are all figuring things out as we go along and that’s what makes life so interesting and unpredictable. Oh, and also take care of your teeth. One day you’re chomping away happily and the next, you’re having to turn down a drink with ice because it’s causing you actual pain.

Who are you hoping this show most connects with? 

Hopefully this new show will connect with everyone. In the past, the majority of audiences have been south Asian women, but I’ve spoken to people of all backgrounds who have connected with my work, whether that’s my book or my stand up.

Your acclaimed book Sunny was warmly received, so will you be writing another one?

Definitely. If it was up to me, I would spend the majority of my time at my desk writing and drinking copious cups of tea.

I’m currently working on a sequel to Sunny, as so many readers resonated with her. Plus, I’m having fun discovering what she gets up to next.

 You are so brilliant live, but do you ever get nervous before going on stage?

Always. I don’t think that will ever change. I’ve suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I have learned how to manage it through a combination of breathing exercises, stretches and the thought of being able to go home at some point.

Do you know whether a joke will be funny before you go on stage? 

Generally, I have an idea whether something is funny or not, but sometimes a joke that normally lands really well can fall flat. Many comedians can storm a gig one night and perform the same material the next night and completely tank. It’s down to a lot of variables that are completely out of our control, so I never take it for granted that something will be funny every time.

 What advice would you give women who want to follow in your footsteps and pursue stand-up comedy?

If you really want to try it but you’re too scared, you’re going to have to learn to push through the fear.

Write five minutes of material and find a local open mic night that is supportive and well organised. Record your material and keep honing it. If it sounds terrifying, that’s because it is. You’ll still be in the minority as a woman and you’ll likely be underestimated as so many people, including comedians, believe that women aren’t funny. So work hard, prove them wrong but don’t forget to take care of yourself among it all.

 What inspires you creatively? 

In short, real life. An offhand comment, something that I have overheard on the Tube or something my mum mentions in passing.

Like a lot of creatives, I have too many ideas and not enough time. To anyone struggling for ideas, my top tip is to not be buried in your phone and to take your headphones off in public – you’ll be amazed at what you overhear. Plus, no one can accuse you of being nosey as it’s ‘research’.

Why should we watch your show?

You should all come to see The Aunty Years as it’ll be a fun night out, you might learn the odd word of Punjabi, and laughing is great for the soul.

Plus, I’d quite like to get on the property ladder, so please do buy a ticket.

Sukh Ojla: The Aunty Years is currently on a nationwide tour. Check www.luventertainment. co.uk for tour dates and ticket availability. www.sukhojla. com and Instagram: @sukhkaurojlaofficial

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