Subhah Agarwal, a comedian, actress and writer for “The Jim Jefferies Show” on Comedy Central, gave an hour-long performance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) Cole Cinema on Jan. 22. Agarwal revealed anecdotes from her life with self-deprecating humor. With her Indian-American heritage as a central theme, she delivered jokes about today’s society.
Agarwal, a woman of color, contrasts what students have pointed out as a trend in the previous comedians featured at SMCM. (Editor’s note: see Aissatou Thiaw’s comments in the Andrea Gibson article). In the past, a majority of comedians brought to campus have been white males.
As a daughter of immigrant parents, Agarwal balanced satisfying her family’s values with fitting into American society. When she was younger, her peers would tease her about how weird it was to be a fat vegetarian. Agarwal’s mother is a devout Hindu and wishes that her daughter would have an arranged marriage. Although she loves being a comedian, her mother regards the profession as being a “clown” and would rather her become a doctor or scientist.
Agarwal’s parents never taught her about the racism she would face in her American small town. She joked about how a man yelled at her saying, “Go back to where you came from!” She unknowingly responded, “Yeah, I’m just going back to my house!”
When she applied for a job working for a Disney company, the talent agent explained that they didn’t want a “Princess Jasmine,” so they made her dress up in Indian clothes and act as a tarot card reader. Agarwal can freely laugh at her memories while making a political point against racism and sexism through her comedy.
Facing the stereotypes held against South Asians, she mentions, “I’m Indian, but I’m not a doctor.” She mentioned how she hated working the call center at her job because when a customer hears an Indian name, they immediately complain about how Indians are taking jobs away from Americans. She pointed out the fact that people shouldn’t blame the workers themselves for taking the jobs to feed their families, but instead the corporations that hire them. Agarwal also referenced her experiences being mistaken for Middle Eastern and being called a “fat terrorist.”
Agarwal also revealed feminist ideals as she mentions the unfair double standards of female expectations. She says that it’s “practically illegal” to not be dressed in top fashion as a woman in Los Angeles. Suggesting a disagreement of the beauty standards for women in our society, she asks, “what’s wrong with ugly women?”
She shared everything from her experiences getting catcalled on the street to how being in Girl Scouts isn’t as effective as being in Boy Scouts. She even mentioned that prostitutes deserve more respect and revealed her thoughts on how she doesn’t want kids.
You can follow Agarwal’s content on her website https://www.subhahcomedy.com/ or Twitter @subhah and on Instagram @subhaha.