Five years ago in a dimly lit bar, I watched Aditi Mittal perform a stand-up comedy set that had the audience literally rolling on the floor with laughter. Mid-way through her impersonation of a beauty pageant contestant, it seemed to me that Aditi was wrapping up her set early because people simply refused to stop laughing – a problem that any comedian in the world would love to have. Unfortunately, Aditi’s new Netflix special has a problem of another kind – it’s as mediocre and boring as they come.
Aditi’s material isn’t always bad, but the observations aren’t profound enough to hold weight even without excellent delivery and the delivery isn’t always powerful enough to carry the joke through
Full disclosure – I really, really wanted to like this show. The series of events preceding the release of Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say is important to mention here. When Amazon Prime Video chose 14 Indian comics for 60 minute stand-up comedy specials, it was bizarre that no woman made it to that list. Aditi was one of the people who strongly spoke out about the lack of investment in female comics (you can check out that conversation here).
But here’s why Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say was a let down. To be fair, this isn’t the worst 60 minutes of Indian stand-up by a long shot. I’d even say it’s better than some of the Amazon Prime specials this year. And yet, I had several issues with it.
The special begins with Aditi speaking about lecherous men and how it affects the self-esteem of a single girl like her. This is content that no male comic could ever talk about and therefore should seem fresh, but an inconsistent delivery and narrative style take away from some promising set-ups. Sadly, this becomes a pattern that’s noticeable through the entire special.
Aditi’s material isn’t always bad, but the observations aren’t profound enough to hold weight even without excellent delivery (like Sarah Silverman) and the delivery isn’t always powerful enough to carry the joke through (like Biswa Kalyan Rath). What you get instead is mid-rung content with mediocre delivery that might make you chuckle a few times but is unlikely to generate many belly laughs.
If you’ve watched Aditi Mittal perform over the years, quite a few jokes may seem familiar to you – her set about being half-Sindhi and half-Punjabi, a dramatic narration of a baby powder commercial and a takedown of over-the-top sanitary napkin packaging techniques. While almost all comedians are guilty of repurposing material for long-format shows, Aditi’s integration of these jokes into the main set isn’t the smoothest.
Another trend that a lot of comedians have been guilty of this year has been choosing names for their specials that don’t necessarily have much to do with the set (Biswa Mast Aadmi and Kanan Gill’s Keep It Real come to mind). But perhaps because of the aforementioned context in which this special was announced, I was expecting more no-holds-barred content from a show titled Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say.
No doubt, it’s refreshing to hear a comedian talk about periods, body hair, bra sizes and being whistled at, but refreshing isn’t the same as funny. A bold thought and exciting set-up that’s let down by mediocre execution – that’s the story of the numerous jokes that Aditi Mittal delivers, and ultimately the special itself.
You can watch the entire Netflix Special here.