One of the most important things every successful stand-up needs is plenty of material, which is why former banker turned-stay-at-home mum-turned comedienne Sindhu Vee was such a hit at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The Indian comedienne from London debuted her first solo show Sandhog this year at the world’s largest arts festival to critical acclaim.
"My run sold out early on," Vee tells The National following a packed performance. "So I called my parents to tell them about it, and my mother asked for the name of everyone who had bought a ticket so she could put a fruit in their name at the temple. When I said no, she asked 'why not?' and I told her because of data protection. She said: 'What? I am not CIA!'"
Vee’s mother, who lives in India, is one of the prime sources of material for her stand-up routines. It’s not uncommon 10 minutes before she heads out on stage for her mum to ring and tell her that Freddie Mercury was in fact Indian or ask her if she’s eating enough almonds.
Luckily, the comedienne’s mother doesn’t mind being featured in her daughter’s comedy. In fact, she takes credit for Vee’s success. “When she came to see me gig in India I said: ‘Mummy there’s a lot about you in it’. She goes ‘of course, without me you would not have a show’.”
Her other sources of material are her hyper-rational Danish husband and her three children. High-achiever Vee met her husband while studying in the United States on a scholarship. “He was only there for a term,” she explains. “But then years later, we both ended up in London. We probably met three times with friends and then one time he said ‘I think we should get back together.’ Twenty days later, he proposed.”
Fast forward two decades from the whirlwind proposal and Vee, who describes her personality as Jack Nicholson from The Shining, sees marriage unromantically as a straightforward system of shared values. "You get married and then you start the hard work. I was always going to have an arranged marriage. But it just didn't work out."
One of the major issues stopping her from finding a suitor was her height. At 5’10, she wanted a husband who was taller than her, something her parents struggled to find, despite their best efforts. Studying abroad in both the US and Britain also made matters more challenging. And although she did not have an arranged marriage herself, Vee says she can understand the benefits.
“Marriages don’t work on romance, they work on values. The subcontinent is very big on marriages lasting. Societies are based around units. In eastern cultures, it’s the community unit, which starts with the family. If you have to perpetuate that, you have to make a marriage last. What your parents do is they sift through and put you in touch with boys who have a similar world view.”
The comedienne says she was lucky with her husband, despite their polar opposite personalities, to have a shared value system. And he doesn’t come to her shows (“exactly how I like it”), nor do any of her three children.
Before becoming a mother, she was a successful banker working on bond sales for a multinational investment bank. But following the birth of her first child, she quit the profession. “I used to sit in the bathroom at work and cry because I missed my baby. I transformed into someone I didn’t recognise. You never know how love will affect you.
“I couldn’t be the kind of mother I wanted to be by being away all day. And I was never that attached to money. If you have two bankers in the family [Vee’s husband also works in finance], one of you can afford to not work.” It was after the birth of her third child and approaching her forties that Vee began to look for something else to do.
A friend suggested she attend a comedy workshop, which she did, despite having never seen live stand- up before. She was spotted there and invited to the Funny Women comedy awards, reaching the semi-finals. “Being on stage, I realised it was something I had to do again,” the comedienne recalls.
While her life as a stay-at-home mother and wife forms the basis of her stand up gigs, Vee is careful not to talk about her children in specifics. "I talk about my family – it would be weird if I talked about the neighbour's family – but I think you can do that in a way that it is not going to expose them."
In the future, she hopes her comedy will evolve into examining the dynamics of family life without letting the world into her own personal set-up. “My aim is to make the comedy stand alone. I want people to say, ‘She’s very funny; she talks about husbands and wives and kids without talking about a specific family.’ I would like it over time to move away from the specifics of that character and those kids to the specifics of what makes families tick.
“It’s going to take time, I’m just starting, it’s my debut hour.”