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Vidya Rajan's Respawn is a "silly scream into the universe"

How good is comedy?

Vidya Rajan’s new show, Respawn, opens at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival with important questions like “will I reincarnate as a dung beetle”. Directed by Michelle Brasier, Respawn explores the concept of reincarnation through the lens of race, culture, therapy, and Vidya’s relationship with her family. 

Dilpreet speaks with her about experimental comedy, the Australian art scene and what community means to a South Asian creative.

Dilpreet: The Comedy Festival’s website calls you an ‘alt-comedy ace’ Vidya. Please indulge us in what that means.

Vidya: I heard the term, so I just adopted it, haha. ‘Alternative comedy’ usually applies to work that isn’t purely stand-up or if it’s combining comedy with other art forms. My comedy is often a bit theatrical and plays with different personas or technology for fun. 

Dilpreet: When did you start doing comedy, and what keep you going? I imagine it is quite a difficult profession to stick through.

Vidya: I’ve been doing improv and sketch comedy for a decade. There isn’t a particular date to it, but I started in independent theatre, and I also write and perform for theatre and TV, and comedy was often a part of those things. Over the last two years, writing and performing solo comedy has become a bigger part of my full-time work.

Anything in the arts is difficult to stick to, especially as a freelancer; you have to be able to do a few different types of work to make it a job. You’re often finding your own way while battling a few things. Also, and definitely in Australia, being from the backgrounds we’re from is still really rare in these spaces and the arts overall. What keeps me going is often other people of colour in the arts - the feeling of community, the love of the work itself, audience members who’ve reached out, and of course, reminding myself that I’m lucky to do it.


Dilpreet: How did the idea for Respawn come about?

Vidya: I’ve always been fascinated by theories around how to live “the game of life” - whether that’s a religion or other rules we adopt. I was raised in a Hindu household where reincarnation was always casually mentioned. I guess I started to think about what that meant to me and also realised using it as a framework for a show would be really fun. I do many funny little characters and keep coming back as a much more idiotic version of myself, like “a stand-up comic named Vidya”. The show looks at race, culture, therapy, and my relationship with family and also is about how you choose if you’re doing the right thing in life. But, it does so in a very absurd, tongue in cheek kind of way. It’s a little bit of an ode to my culture and a weird, silly scream into the universe.

Dilpreet: Your show is directed by Michelle Brasier, who I absolutely adore! Is it different to being directed on a sketch vs a stand-up?

Vidya: This show has both! A good director helps you hone your voice and find the bits that need fixing. Michelle is great at it and a close friend, so I endorse this adoring.

Dilpreet: If you could tell the readers that one feeling they’d be left with after watching your show - what would that be?

Vidya: I hope they feel like they’ve seen something new, had a really fun time, were surprised, a little moved perhaps and feel like they’ve been in something together (there’s some very safe, low-stress audience participation!). 


Catch Respawn at the Melbourne Comedy Fest from April 12-24 by booking your tickets here.


Vidya’s photo is courtesy of Emma Holland.

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About the author

Dilpreet is the founder of South Asian Today. More about her can be found here.




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