- Rasika Mathur
- Houston Texas
- Yoga Reading Skateboarding Fake Musical Comedy Concerts Being In Nature Making Children Laugh
- Beautiful Eyes Million Dollar Smile Funny As F#@k And YES A Damn Fine Ass!
- Stroking (her Eyelashes)
THANKS TO DESI YOUTH MAGAZINE RASIKA MATHUR INTERVIEW:
0. So you're a Canadian! Are you dual?
Yes! I'm, as I like to call it, Bi-Curious about my citizenship and finally coming Oooout, after all these years. I made a pilgrimmage to Ottawa (my birthplace) this year with a fellow Canuck, and saw Toronto and my Canadian cousin for the first time in my LIFE at his wedding! Even got to do a set at Yuk-Yuks. I educated, I rapped, I broke a glass. It was THE first impression to leave on Canada. Also, you guys should know that I had a suitcase all packed up and ready to move north for good, had our elections gone south. But because more Americans helped topple a regime than didn't, I can continue to stay in California and hug lots and lots of trees.
1. You did the MTV show, Nick Cannon's Wild N Out, for 4 entire seasons. How would you prepare yourself for this "improv" show?
The main things with improv are to look at what's immediately in front of you, and what is true. There is an amazing book that students of improv get when they study at Improv Olympic (LA or Chicago) called Truth in Comedy. It basically talks about the philosophy that the things that really ring true, or calling it like you see it, is what makes an audience laugh. Most of the time, this is because it's something that nobody is saying but all know to be true...sort of like taking that multi-colored elephant in the room and putting a giant spotlight on him, like on my own body hair.... Ahem. So, for example, in the case of Supermodel Eva Pigford, I had thought to myself all day backstage that, "Man, for a Black girl, she sure is missing some trunk junk." The hamster in my brain started twitching, and at just the right time during Wildstyle, after being "provoked" with a lame-ass curry joke, the right thing to say spit right out of me. (Recap: "Yes I'm Indian, it's true. But, um, are you Black? I got more ass than you!") As fellow player Katt Williams told me afterwards, the reason what I said got such an astounding response is because "It was funny, it was concise, but most of all, it was true!"
2. What is your everyday motivation?
I wake up in the morning like most people: grumpy and groggy. We have to, as human beings, create what we are going to be for the day. I usually think about what I may be challenged with later in the day, like seeing someone who intimidates me, so I'll create "Partnership" as my mantra. Or I might have an extremely packed day of auditions, errands, meetings, very necessary boyfriend time, and I'll create "Ease" for the day. When you have this ONE thing to sort of coast with you, you can remember it during every activity you are doing, to actually influence your own outcome. It ain't fate, it ain't chance, it wasn't all written out. You are doing it all and making EVERYTHING happen right now. And that's not new agey, that's just plain ol' DUH.
3. When did you first realize you could make others laugh?
Sort of going back to the improv question, it's when I was being an acute observer that I noticed this reaction of "delight" from my parents and schoolteachers. I remember being in Kindergarten, and being asked to draw our lives at home. I didn't draw your typical sun rising from behind the roof of a smoked-out chimney on top of a house with 2 windows, a door and giant sunflowers growing in the garden. I had this extremely vivid image in my head of my dad in an Oilers trucker hat, pushing a lawnmower on a Sunday afternoon, with my mom peeping out of the mini-blinds at him. That little image, the detailed way I translated it, blew everyone away. Probably because I also didn't do stick people. I hate stick people. Stick people are inaccurate, especially in Houston! Don't kids know how obese their families are? Anyway...yeah...the lawnmower.
4. Was there a conscious effort into choosing this career path? How did your parents react?
Oh yeah. Extremely conscious. It's called, "I don't believe in any of the work I'm doing at this advertising agency, writing lame copy for tacos and juice, pushing burgers and the US Army on Black kids, only to be told by a 55 year old White client, ‘I don't get it,’ and revising based on his comments.” It made no sense. There was fantastic money in advertising, but my bullshit meter was so high when I lived in Chicago...I mean, if it smelled of hypocrisy and injustice and something I didn't believe in, I had to get out. Anything that makes me unhappy, I don't tolerate it for too long. The one good thing about the ad agency I worked at is that they were offering full tuition reimbursement to study at this little tiny place called The Second City. They saw it as mandatory to go out, get confident, learn some public speaking skills to enhance your presentations...well, I was just in awe, because that's the famous school anyone who's ever been on SNL came from! I loved it because it gave me the confidence to try stand-up, a format where there was no 55-year old client editing me. Improv was literally keeping me alive in Chicago, and I remember I had a call with my parents when I was 22 and I said, "Mummy, Papa, I have to tell you something. (shaky voice) I am just not happy." And I already knew I sounded crazy to them, talking about happiness vs. a good paying job. The way I was brought up, you aren't supposed to give a shit about "happiness." But I couldn't lie to myself any longer. And their reaction was, "Just stick it out. Write a book, you're a great writer, so do that when you come home. But you have to stay there and work and save money and be stable." On and on for the next 8 years, that was always what they would say, even after I got Wild N Out. But I can't be mad at them for not wanting to see their daughter on skid row. :)
5. So has quitting ever been an option for you?
Yeah, I usually give up every two years, and sometimes I want to quit entirely right before I'm about to go on stage. But I hear that's normal.
6. Are you still working in the advertising field? If yes, do you get to use your comic talent at the job?
When there is an opportunity to freelance, I do it, only if it doesn't stink of baloney. It's good money, which never hurts to supplement a comedian's income. Do I get to use my comic talent on the job? Only if I have to get out of coming to work. "Jamie Foxx wants me to audition for his show. See ya!"
7. What does your current answering machine recording say?
Something about how Rasika Mathur is out but you can leave a message with a very tired sounding assistant named Ravi. I don't know, that voicemail greeting has a mind of its own sometimes.
8. On the show you've done impressions of Penelope Cruz and J-Lo. What other impressions are you good at?
I have a great Ellen! And I do a Paris who's recently visited India. Those two killed at a dance competition I hosted in Atlanta, “So You Think You Can Naach?” Indian parents love the Paris thing. My Gollum's really tight. And even though I look nothing like him, it's fun to TRY and be M. Night. Recently, I've started talking like Barack Obama -- whatever I'm saying, I just enthusiastically throw in the word "education." All these characters and more can be yours, folks, for hire during any Awards Gala, Banquet, Competition or other not aforementioned Event. Hit up the firstname.lastname@example.org. Attn: Ravi.
9. Tell me about your favorite character?
The lovely, witty and now quite notorious Nilam Auntie. She was only born on stage the morning of a cousin’s Mendhi ceremony where I was to perform. From there, her observational skills and commentary were so easy to fall into, that she just stuck. And I mean stuck. This woman straight up sued me this year, wrangled for her own web show with Desi You, AND even allowed a mockumentary to be made about her life (Nilam Auntie: An International Treasure, soon to be available on Amazon.com) You can even find her on Myspace! A handful of 60 year old men from Holland already have. She reels in a love note a week. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Nilam Auntie too is available for hire for Anniversaries, Restaurant Openings, and private events as a Roaming Party Guest. She does Wedding Mendhi ceremony entertainment and Reception MCing. You can reach her at email@example.com. Attn: Nilam.
10. What is the best compliment you have received?
There's too many good ones...I've gotten at least three from troops and officers in the Army, Navy and the Marines. These guys will say things like "It gets lonely out here. Because I see you on the MTV show, you make me feel a little closer to home." Can you believe that?? There was also a young lady who saw me speak at Boston's NET-IP conference this past summer, and she wrote me an amazing note about how it changed her. She said she realized how it'd been detrimental for her to discourage her younger sister to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She called her when she got home and said, "Don't listen to a word I've said. Rasika Mathur is out there doing it, so I know you can too!" I got so high off of that! To light the path for someone? Change their behavior? Change their dynamic in their family so that their relationship is heightened?? Are you kidding me? That's the stuff of stuff! I remember telling those wide-eared professionals who were so hungry to hear that they will be okay and they must go on getting their voices heard-I told them, "Know who your heroes are. I try to remember mine everyday. Gandhi, John Lennon, Jay Adams. People who did things that were not popular at the time." About 30 of them came up after and said, "Thank you for that!" See, you don't have to do or like what I'm doing, but if you can get anything out of the fact that I struggled, but am still picking myself up to make you laugh because that's what I know I'm supposed to be doing, then MORE POWER TO YOU! :)
11. You mentioned Jay Adams. Not a former US President right?'
No! That would be a cross between John Adams and James Madison. Or some powdered whig dude. No, I mean skateboard legend Jay Adams. I watched a few Dogtown/Z-boys documentaries, and he totally changed the direction of my year. This guy was so against anything corporate and commercial, that even when he knew that was the road to getting himself paid and off the streets, he chose to continue as a lifer-skate punk-innovator. As someone who has learned to take risks, I find that inspiring. Right at around that time, I’d also seen Into the Wild, which illustrates the journey of Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp. Man, I started raging against anything and everything that had to do with the economy, commercialism, the Industry, society, politics, EVERYTHING. I took all this disillusionment, went on a career cleansing, and not in so many words, told some of the dinosaurs in my career and my life to F off, because you know what? I'd had it with being the little cowering pussy mouse waiting for crumbs. Obey. Obey. Obey. Fuck that. And I know I could have been more tactful, but I needed to do that for myself. To be a total punk to people, and know that I'd still land on my own two feet the next day, without consequence. The Hollywood sign did not fall on my head, you know? Nothing but freedom and bold direction followed. And of course, I ride too. This year I bought a midsized carver from Sector Nine, and the only reason I got it is because it has this beautiful rendering of Ganesh on it. Ganesh rides with me, everywhere I go, removing obstacles.
11. Who's your favourite comedic superstar? Who are some of your other influences?
Robin Williams all the way. He is spontaneous combustion. I even got to meet him and riff with him at the San Francisco Sketch Festival this past year! Holy Idol. Take the silliness of the 1992-93 season of SNL, mix it with the wit of Monty Python, and you’ve got the style of my comedy troupe, Siblings of Doctors.
12. You've got a unique brand of comedy with a global appeal. What's been one of the highlights of your career?
Teaching all races of people about the sari and how to tie one with my Sari (W)rap video. Being jaded sort of forces you to take action on your own, and this little self-produced gem is something I’m so proud of. It’s been seen in film festivals across the world! In London, Mexico, Canada, and the US in LA, NYC and Seattle. And it’s a nod from the universe to keep doing what I’m doing, and proceed with speed with my “edutainment” sense of humor.
13. What do you want people to remember you for?
For being a geek turned dreamcatcher. Making people laugh, but packing in some words that also made them want to call their mothers and tell them they love them. And for this ass.
14. What pieces of advice do you give someone who wants to become a comedian?
Write down everything. Every thought you have, every thing you say that made someone laugh. And figure out WHY it worked. Know WHY you're funny. Embrace why you're funny. Give it away to people, on stage, as often as you can. I've done too much starting and stopping, and it becomes more paralyzing each time to get up. Just get the momentum of an open mic a week. My friend Ranjit keeps a blog, read how he's committing to doing it once a week and writing about it. www.siblingsofdoctors.com/ranjitblog. Find inspiration before you write or perform. It puts you in the right frame of mind to deliver.
15. What are your own favorite lines?
Everytime a clock reads 9:11, a terrorist gets his wings. If you’re tired, either nap, crap or take a lap. And I didn’t write it, but it bears repeating: No fatties.
16. You just wrapped on the film adaptation of Michael Muhammed Knight's The Taqwacores. What was it like being a Hindu actress cast in a film about the Muslim Punk scene?
Scary at first. I’ve grown up with some very old world views about Hindus-Muslims, you know? Not allowed to associate with them, etc. Fortunately for myself, I made up my own mind about who I liked to hang out with. But it seemed like a big enough deal to not tell my parents about. Also because there’s a fair amount of raunch in the script, my character included! I play Fatima, and she is so representative of those really good girls who have very innocent encounters with boys…that end up schooling them a little. I know there are a million girls out there who can relate to that. Then there was the punk rock element. I knew very little about punk, so friends turned me on to the Sex Pistols, Sham 69, Minor Threat, etc. And then there’s the Muslim-Punk scene. I went to mosques in LA, read Quran on my iPhone, and then I had to sort of disregard it because we’re talking about kids who interpet their own faith, you know? So all these elements are what made me say, “This is scary. But important to show and be a part of. All the reasons not to do it … are the reasons to do it.” I had SUCH amazing experiences on that set. All in the form of learning. I just saw myself as a student of independent f-you films. And I loved it. And boy did I have great company. Also there is a real life Taqwacore band documentary coming out in Canada first, I hear. So you guys should be all over that. Oh, and I did tell my parents. They’re thrilled!
17 The Vagina Monologues now has a South Asian adaptation called "Yoni Ki Baat." This year, the San Francisco event asked you to be the Special Guest Performer. How was that?
Shocking in a good way, madcap fun for me to go all out with my Kama Sutra bit. Sisterhood. Kinship. Empowering for the LGBT community of San Francisco and being there in inspired laughter with them. The voices were so polished. And it was such an easy and open forum to say anything we wanted. It was just received with open arms. And open yonis.
18. What are your current projects and how can people see you perform?
My 3-man sketch comedy troupe Siblings of Doctors (myself, Chicago writer Ranjit Souri and LA actor Danny Pudi) is available to do college shows and professional conventions, be it doctor, lawyer, engineer or investor (www.siblingsofdoctors.com). I am currently producing my very first Musical Comedy Album, which will be available on the Rukus Avenue label and on iTunes next year. And on www.rasikamathur.com, you can check out upcoming shows, appearances and videos.