Sumukhi Suresh’s new stand-up set Don’t Tell Amma is out on Amazon Prime and is highly ‘relatable’. While that’s for the most part a compliment to her delivery and on-stage skills, it is also an indictment on her content, which is ‘relatable-y’ average.
What had me wondering was that why in the course of an hour, would a comedian like Sumukhi, who is known for her edgier content, deliver something so bland. The writing sounded like a fireside chat between a bunch of drunk engineers on a night of soul searching. Perhaps it is the pressure of this being her first solo Amazon special and her having to keep the content “mass”? Or maybe her content is best experienced live and not on screen? I don’t have the answers, maybe the viewers will.
Don’t Tell Amma jumps from body positivity and ‘poor’ middle-class upbringing, to female shaming (even if rich women are the target, it still counts) and then there’s also a rant against engineers. Spoiler alert, I might have already covered all that there is to Sumukhi’s one hour set in the above sentence. In fact, through the special, the point of what Sumukhi is trying to convey gets really confusing. Is she being classist? Is she being body positive? Is she being feminist? Or is she subverting all these tropes to deliver brilliance?
Let’s jump to what works in Don’t Tell Amma. The punchlines delivered when Sumukhi’s working with the audience stand out. The “hard work and talent…” and “Buzzfeed quiz” were the two moments that landed well. There’s also the domestic help ‘Ram Dayal’ segment which draws out laughs from the audience. Segments on her father work thanks to Sumukhi’s delivery. She also goes on to talk about how her family grew up poor in Nagpur with a “rich people resume”. The section is tolerable, but void of any cleverness or poignancy.
Don’t Tell Amma jumps from body positivity and ‘poor’ middle-class upbringing, to female shaming and then there’s also a rant against engineers.
There is a moment about her dad being at the jeweller’s, selling silver to get cash for their home, which is squandered on a body (positive?) shaming joke. By the end of it, if you’re so inclined, you may also like her takedown of engineers.
What doesn’t work? Well, nearly all of it. It feels and plays out like a freshman effort. Don’t Tell Amma is nothing new, it has nothing outrageous, and sadly, nothing too funny either. The overall flavour of this special’s recipe is so bland, that even ICU wards wouldn’t mind serving it.
Or maybe, I’m not the correct audience? Who knows? But I do know Indian stand-up comedy specials deserve better; especially from a leading comedian like Sumukhi.