Anu Menon on her Lola Kutty avatar and why the best jokes are rooted in truth
The comedian, who will perform in Dubai this Friday, talks to us about her famous alter-ego and what inspires her stand-up act.
“I think my stint as Lola Kutty really came in the way of my item number career,” said comedian Anu Menon when City Times caught up with her ahead of her live performance this Friday in Dubai. “No one wants to offer me item numbers as a result of being Lola but whatever, I’ve made peace with it,” she joked with reference to the extremely popular character she essayed on a music channel, a hit with fans who to this day associate her with or refer to her as, Lola.
A theatre artist and former VJ, Anu turned to stand-up comedy after her stint as Lola and won praise for her act which she said is inspired by real life stories. “Inspiration for my stand-up comes from stuff that happens in my life. So I’m a story comedian (maybe it’s because of my theatre background); I’m very invested in stories. Like when comedians tell me something about themselves, I’m invested because I like to know about them, and it gives you an insight into how they tick or what their lives are like. So of course, in what I say (on stage) there’s a slight element of exaggeration and theatricality but the basis is always the truth and I think that’s why people laugh as well.”
She believes “joke telling at the end of the day is truth telling” and said people laugh “whether it is an experience you’ve had as an audience member, whether you empathise, sympathise or it’s an experience you can’t ever imagine.”
“They can laugh with you or at you, it doesn’t matter but I think the basis is always truth,” she added.
‘My suitcase has been in therapy’
On how she feels about doing a live show in Dubai and what fans can expect, she quipped, “I’m extremely excited to be doing a live show in front of actual people and not in front of a Zoom screen, so that’s a plus! And, as far as expectations go, well I think all our expectations have dropped considerably in Covid times, so I think keep your expectations low and you’ll only be pleasantly surprised!”
She admitted there was “some degree of trepidation and nervousness associated with travel” during this time but she’s also excited to be heading to Dubai. “I feel like it’s that excitement of taking your first flight ever, because it’s been so long. And my suitcase has been in therapy for low self-esteem for a while, because it hasn’t gone anywhere. But, because I do live with my in-laws and I have a child so you best want to protect yourself and them as well. I have not done any live show; I have gone for a two-day shoot where I did my own make-up so that no one would touch me, I had three bottles of sanitiser and and sanitising sprays everywhere I went and I just completely had this resting b***h face so that no one felt I was approachable to talk to anyway. So I think that worked to my advantage!”
‘I was running out of pajamas’
Anu, who is married and has a seven-year-old kid, opened up about life during the Covid lockdown in India and the pros and cons of doing Zoom shows. “I was extremely busy during lockdown; you turn into a domestic goddess, because you have to! In the initial stages I was just going from one pair of pajamas into another and then I realised that I was running out of pajamas. I did a lot of comedy on Zoom and it takes a while to get used to it because, a lot of the time people are muted, so it’s like you’re watching people laugh but you can’t hear anything, you’re held to ransom by your Internet connection, you’re seeing a lot more of people than you envisaged.
“I’ve seen the interiors of so many houses, I’ve seen people scratch certain parts of their bodies, their mothers doing jhadoo (sweeping) in the background, I’ve seen people take the phone into the loo, some people lying down like apsaras (celestial creatures) on the bed, and sadly, you can’t ‘unsee’ these things!" She joked about turning into a ‘spot boy’ for her kid during lockdown. “My 7-year-old has been at home doing Zoom classes and as a result, I feel like I turned into his spot boy. I was one step away from saying ‘baba ke liye juice leke aao (bring juice for baba)’ because that’s what it came down to.”
Many comedians took to online performances during the lockdown but Anu admitted nothing can replace the thrill of live shows. “I was part of a production where we all wrote stories about the lockdown and we acted and shot it ourselves - we were our own cinematographer, make-up artist, lighting person - so it’s a completely different beast! Nothing is ever going to replace the thrill and excitement of living, breathing human beings in front of you. At least I’m privileged in the sense that I have savings, I can go a few months without having to worry from a financial standpoint but for so many people in the arts who are dependent on shows happening for their livelihood, it was an incredibly tough time.”
‘Lola is a ‘90s kid thing’
For those of us who are still laughing at Lola’s jokes, years later, will Anu ever bring back her hilarious alter-ego? “I think I always will be (Lola).. but also now there’s a whole generation of people who don’t know what a ‘Lola Kutty’ is - it’s mainly a ‘90s kid thing. I was really young (22) when I started doing Lola and it’s so heartwarming that people still have so much affection towards the character; they believe she’s this living, breathing human being and have their own experiences of the character. They remind me of so many things that I have forgotten, certain episodes, certain questions I asked some celebrities.”
She said she believes in “maintaining equilibrium” during the high and low points of one’s career, then neither will throw you off kilter, adding, “So many people say ‘you have to bring Lola back’. But so much of humour is time and place so I don’t want to sully what she represented for the time that she represented it. Of course I think she can cross time zones and cultures, but I want to keep that space a bit sacrosanct. I do a couple of shows as Lola a year for corporates and things like that but I think for people to have a nice memory of her, is ideal.”
Catch Anu at Joker Street, Orchid Vue Hotel, Bur Dubai on Friday, October 30, from 9:30pm onwards. Cover charges are Dh100 per head. For reservations, call 052-1611262 or 050-6922870 or buy tickets on platinumlist.net