Jo Gowda's Journey From Sports Analyst To Stand-Up Queen Wasn't Easy, But Aussie Comedy Is Better For It

She brings her 'Export Quality' show to Sydney Comedy Festival in 2024.

Jo Gowda at Sydney Comedy Festival

Jo Gowda has always been considered the “funny” one in her professional and social circles. But being a professional comedian wasn’t her initial career of choice after migrating from Bangalore to Australia 11 years ago. 

Having studied at college before working as a cricket and sports analyst back in India, Gowda had envisioned a similar career when she arrived in Brisbane. But as is the case for many South Asian migrants, a seamless transition was not on the cards. 

“I was really disheartened initially when I didn't get a job in my field,” Gowda tells Draw Your Box. “It was one of the toughest moments in my life because when you move to another country, you already let go of your family and friends. You just feel totally naked in a way.

“I felt like I was slowly losing my whole identity. I was like, ‘I’ve left my family and my friends and now not even I'm not even an analyst. So what am I?” 

She went on to work in various office-based jobs. While they helped pay the bills, they weren’t necessarily her true calling. It wasn’t until she gave birth to her daughter a few years ago that she recognised the opportunity motherhood had provided her to venture beyond her comfort zone. Not only could she embrace her more creative (and funny) streak, but she could set an example for her little girl in terms of paving an unconventional career path as an Indian woman. 

“I was absolutely obsessed with this little girl that I gave birth to, and as a mum, you're always thinking, ‘I hope she can do whatever she wants to do and I hope she achieves whatever she wants to achieve’,” says Gowda. “Then a big part of me was like, ‘Well hang on a second, you're not even doing what you want to do. So how are you going to teach her to be that?’” 

Fast forward to May 2024 and Gowda is preparing for her shows at Sydney Comedy Festival. Titled Export Quality, her solo shows will delve into the intricacies of the immigrant experience from Gowda’s perspective, with her personal humour sprinkled throughout to keep audiences entertained and giggling. 

Gowda is unquestionably driven by her goal of quashing the stereotype that brown women aren’t funny. While she “didn't consciously set out to break these stereotypes” when she began doing comedy, she gradually noticed that people appreciated the moments when she “just spoke about things that I found really absurd”. 

“You begin to realise that people are still one step behind you,” she explains. “If I'm able to contribute towards a more progressive view of thinking towards Indian women, then why not do it if I've got a platform?” 

Australia is seeing a shift towards more South Asian representation in the comedy scene. While the likes of Nazeem Hussain and Dilruk Jayasinha are established names in both the stand-up and television landscape, we’re now seeing more female comedians making their mark publicly. For example, Urvi Majumdar will once again perform at Sydney Comedy Festival, while Brown Women Comedy makes its Sydney debut this year, after appearing on the comedy festival circuit in Adelaide and Melbourne. 

“There are more brown women and more Indian women, and I'm genuinely very excited about that shift in the industry,” says Gowda. “Because it is not easy – I won't lie.” 

Gowda notes the additional challenges of being a migrant woman, with accent and language being a key barrier at the start to not only getting your foot in the door, but then connecting with Aussie audiences once you’re in that room. 

“In my experience, having an accent is a hindrance,” she says. “In public speaking, your cadence, your tone, everything matters. I feel like that's one more challenge for me because I need to ensure that I speak slower.

“I need to make sure that I enunciate words properly. So when I'm delivering my joke, I also have all of these thoughts in my head. Sometimes if you mispronounce a word, you're not getting the laugh because people are not used to your tone… so the first few jokes are probably a little bit slower.”

Once she picks up pace after developing a rapport with the audience, Gowda's shows are ultimately a hilariously entertaining insight into “those little stories that happen in immigrant lives”. 

“I just want them to understand the immigrant perspective. I don't want to sound cheesy or anything, “she laughs, “but it is hard to come from another country to set up a life here. 

“I want the average Australian to come have a look and say, 'OK, so these people can laugh at themselves. These people make fun of us, but they also make fun of themselves'.” 

Jo Gowda’s show Export Quality is at Sydney Comedy Festival on Saturday, May 11 at 4:15pm and Sunday, May 12 at 5:15pm at Factory Theatre. Ticket details are available here