Stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal and filmmaker Christina MacGillivray talk about ‘Women in Labour’ comedy podcast – indulgexpress
The podcast addresses issues like women dropping out of the workforce and the reasons behind it
Women in Labour season 2 is now streaming online
Women workforce and labour participation rate issues have been prevalent, not only in India but around the world, for a long time now. Stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal and filmmaker Christina MacGillivray’s comedy podcast ‘Women in Labour’ explores these issues related to work, women, family and why are women dropping out of the workforce.
How did you come up with the idea for this podcast?
Christina MacGillivray: Laura Quinn (co-founder) and I had been looking at women in the workforce issues for a while. And at the same time, in 2018, there was a story about how women were dropping out of the workforce in India. I had been living in Delhi for about ten years and I thought how have I never read about this or heard about it? So, over the next week, I asked anyone next to me at a coffee shop or in a meeting if they had heard about women dropping out of the workforce. And everyone said no, that’s not happening. So I thought there was a really interesting conversation to be had between what the data was saying that this was happening, and the fact that on the ground, myself included, we all thought, no, this isn’t happening.
Why did you make this into a podcast and not a video?
Aditi Mittal: Because there was no budget for the video!
Christina: No, I think in addition to that, the podcasting space is wonderful for having pretty nuanced conversations. Often we will sort of scroll through videos pretty quickly. With podcast listenership, somebody will listen to a conversation for 30 minutes or 40 minutes, and so you can really kind of tease these conversations out.
Aditi: The other thing is that there’s so much resistance whenever we talk about women’s issues from the outside world. And I’ve realized with podcasting, one, you can have more nuanced discussions. And then, two, even the people that we bring to talk to us, the experts, so many of them have not been on a podcast before or are not comfortable being on video. And when you are not on video, you can be more honest, when you know that your face is not there. And that, I think, is very powerful in podcasting.
Christina: Coming from a video production background, I noticed that especially when we’re talking, a lot of the things we talk about in women and labour are intimate, close experiences someone has had, or their growth or what they’ve struggled with. And when you’re doing a documentary, you come in with a camera and five people behind you, there are the lights and sound and the boom is coming in on someone’s head… That is stifling even for people who are used to being in front of the camera. And I think what’s beautiful and what I love about podcasting is we just sit around in a room and it feels like you don’t have to be self-conscious.
How did you guys meet?
Aditi: I love telling this story! I was doing shows in Scotland. And because I was alone there, and very bored, I was looking at my ‘other’ folder on Facebook when I saw one picture of one very good-looking lady with the message, ‘Do you want to talk about women and work?’ You know that when some very good-looking lady’s photo is there it’s probably some guy who has stolen the photo, right? Then one week later, again, from that same very good-looking lady, I got a more detailed message saying, ‘Hey, listen, we want to do this podcast, and would you be interested in co-hosting it with me?’ And I’m telling you, I didn’t have to do any work because this one, Christina, has an over-preparation problem.
Christina, why did you choose Aditi specifically?
Christina: Laura and I were thinking about this concept and we were immediately like Aditi is the right voice and the right person to take this on. So we didn’t even have a b-list. I just showed up in her other folder and that was it!
Aditi, you are one of the top and one of the first woman stand-up comedians in India. How did you navigate your way?
Aditi: It was very lonely, I think, then. Of course, as more and more women came in, more and more perspectives came in. I realized that now two or three of my best friends are stand-up comedians, and that is progress. When you have more women now, you are automatically more comfortable and have more to say. It’s very heartening, and I think that is a sign of progress — how many women there are in your office, in your workspace, or on your stand-up comedy show line-up.
Christina, you have lived in India for almost ten years. How was your experience?
Christina: It’s been fascinating. It’s funny, you know, at first, you feel like if you’ve lived in the country for over a decade, are you still able to sort of talk about these issues even though you’re a foreigner? That’s something that I’ve often thought about. But India, in many ways, it’s a second home. I’ve spent a third of my life here.
You are also associated with UN Human Rights and you did a podcast with them for migrants. Tell us more about that.
Christina: I’ve been working with the UN Human Rights Office on migration for eight or nine years, and my work with them is to look at how can we use different creative media to do interesting projects and positive stories around migration. So that includes a podcast, which I host. And with that one, what’s so fun is we look at people doing creative work around immigration in different countries around the world, and that could be comedians, chefs, graffiti artists, musicians, and authors. And I just get to talk with them about how they’re doing such cool work that touches on the theme of migration, which I love. This year we are doing a cookbook with all women migrant chefs who have contributed their recipes and their stories.
You both have created content on some very serious topics, but with a comic angle. So how do you maintain that delicate balance that might create controversy?
Aditi: I feel like all comedy is actually just serious topics. Every joke, if you look at it on some level, is about something very serious I think we are living in a world that is very serious right now and a lot of things are happening. Climate change is a big issue, migration, and women’s labour force participation is a big issue. I’ll be honest, there hasn’t been any controversy till now for this podcast. If it does happen then, we might get a budget to make a video series. That’s the dream!
Christina: I do love what Aditi said. I think the root of comedy is serious things but I don’t think you have to be serious to talk about serious issues. I don’t think that everybody has to put on their frowny face. Just because we also use a light entry point or we have humour doesn’t mean that we don’t talk about the really tough stuff. As humans, we need both to grapple with the world.
Do you think there should be a line between what topics should be considered for comedy and what not?
Aditi: Yeah, I think there should be. I feel like right now, especially in the age of the internet, there are so many people who have a voice that a joke actually becomes funny depending on who says it. Everything cannot be said by men. It would sound inherently cruel if a man was sitting and joking about some women’s issue, right? Because they don’t suffer it. They have a surface understanding of it and therefore the joke will also be on a surface level. But when women are making that joke, they’re not making it to be cruel. They’re making that joke so that they can survive it.
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