Kaneez Surka: ‘Everyone Defines Me as a ‘Female Comedian’; No One Really Sees Me as an Improv Artist’
The Internet’s favorite funny person on why we need to stop labeling women artists
Thanks to her work spanning stand-up performances, television roles and online sketches, Kaneez Surka is one of the most recognized faces in comedy today.
Surka was born and brought up in South Africa to Indian parents, and made the move to Mumbai in 2005 to take a year off from studying law. The decision to change careers happened soon after discovering and joining Balancing Act Productions, a Mumbai based improv troupe which opened several doors—including her foray into television in 2006 with CNN-IBN’s The Week That Wasn’t, a satirical late night show helmed by actor and comedian Cyrus Broacha. “Cyrus and Kunal [Vijaykar] saw me in one of the [improv] shows,” she recalls. “I played a weather woman who spoke bad Hindi and they loved the character.”
She later gained viral fame on the Internet through her collaborations with comedy sensations All India Bakchod and The Improvisers (a group she formed comedians Kanan Gill, Abish Mathew and Kenneth Sebastian.) In addition to conducting improve workshops, Kaneez is currently working on expanding her YouTube channel and hosts her own online show, The General Fun Game Show.
Surka features in the May issue of Rolling Stone India alongside fellow comics Mallika Dua, Radhika Vaz, Mithila Palkar and Bharti Singh, where she discusses, among other things, the pitfalls of being labeled. She says, “Journalists ask us about being a female comedian, but they don’t talk to us for the work we’re doing, you know? No one really sees Kaneez as an improv artist–just that label of female comedian. And that’s the biggest challenge. People think my brand of comedy is ‘female comedy’ but that’s not a brand of comedy… Everyone defines me as a ‘female comedian’ and I do so much more.”
Having said that, the 33-year-old comic couldn’t be happier about making a living as a comedian. “I’m really living my dream. I know it sounds lame, but I’m doing what I want to do,” she says with a laugh.
Click here to check out the story in the digital edition of Rolling Stone India.
Watch Kaneez Surka attempt to translate iconic English film dialogues into Hindi below:
Photographs by Juhi Sharma
Art Director: Amit Naik
Video: FULL TILT FILMS
Fashion Director: Kushal Parmanand
Junior Stylist: Neelangana Vasudeva
Hair & Makeup by Jean-Claude Biguine India
Location Courtesy: G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mumbai