Urvi Majumdar On How Comedy Can Help Us Make Sense Of Life's Chaos

Returning to Sydney Comedy Festival with her show 'Burnt', Urvi opens up about changing careers, representation and using humour to connect.

Urvi Majumdar

Urvi Majumdar has been doing stand-up comedy for the last eight years, or as she clarifies with me in our chat over Zoom, it’s “technically six years”.

“Two of them in lockdown. So I just preface that, because eight years sounds like I'm ancient,” she laughs.

It’s this sense of humour – combined with her relatability and frankness – that has helped Majumdar grow a strong fan base since she swapped a teaching career for comedy. Born in Calcutta, India before moving to Australia with her family when she was six, the comedian grew up enjoying theatre and performance. So, perhaps being on stage was always in her blood. 

“I was like a full drama nerd and drama student all throughout high school. I just wanted to write poetry and was very theatre-y” she says. 

It wasn’t until she experienced a romantic breakup later in life that she realised cracking jokes in front of strangers could actually be her calling. Afterall, humour can be a great way to process emotions and shed light on more serious issues.

“I went through a breakup and discovered all these female comedians on YouTube doing comedy, which wasn’t even something I knew you could do,” Majumdar reflects. “So that’s what got me into it. I feel that even in my comedy, the darker moments aren’t so different from the lighter, funnier moments and they’re often two sides of the same coin.” 

Speaking of the ups and downs that inform her comedy, Majumdar’s show at Sydney Comedy Festival is aptly titled Burnt

“The last few years have been really hectic in my life,” she says. “It’s a show about what stays the same and how you can build resilience when your life is chaos.” 

A lot in her personal life has changed and she’s managed to “survive” it. While this perhaps “sounds depressing”, Majumdar says the theme of the comedy set is “more about finding the humour in darker moments and finding yourself in them as well”. 

The Bengali woman knows all too well that speaking openly about personal issues is somewhat frowned upon in many South Asian communities. Going against this cultural norm may raise the eyebrows of some brown aunties and uncles, but Majumdar’s comedy career wouldn’t be the success story it is without her radical honesty and infectious personality injected in every routine. 

“Coming from a South Asian background, not all families but some families are like, ‘You don’t overshare or tell personal details’. It’s awkward because I’m like, ‘That’s literally the only thing I do,’” she laughs. “I feel like that's what makes me laugh and I'm an oversharer anyway, so I just can't imagine just writing really abstract jokes because it's just not my style.” 

As Majumdar’s comedy career has evolved, so have the types of projects she’s chosen to immerse herself in. Her three-part web series called Urvi Went To An All Girls School released earlier this year, inspired by her previous stand-up comedy show of the same name. Funded by ABC’s Fresh Blood Initiative, the three short episodes are set in 2010 Melbourne where, according to the series’ synopsis, “a nerdy Indian girl struggles to fit in and find love amidst her parents’ traditional expectations and in the heightened, competitive environment of an elite academic all girls’ school”. 

“I think there’s something evergreen about high school traumas,” says Majumdar. “I’ll often look back and I was a really weird high school student, but I think I’d be proud if I told her what I was doing now.” 

So often in comedy people debate whether comedians should rely so heavily on their cultural identity or race to inspire their material. But, Majumdar says there’s no shame in embracing heritage and the unique elements of one’s culture and family in order to entertain and educate. 

“I think I started off thinking that I don’t want that [race, culture and family] to be my main topic,” she says. “That was in my first couple of years of doing stand-up. But as you get more comfortable talking on stage, I found it’s coloured everything that I see and my world view. 

"It's funny because the more specific I go about my dad, South Asian people will come up to me after the show and be like, ‘Your dad is my dad’. The more specific you go, the more people relate weirdly. It’s actually been pretty joyful.” 

With initiatives like Brown Women Comedy  – which Majumdar was part of last year and for one Melbourne show in 2024 – the comedian says the visibility of South Asian women in the field is gradually improving. Like most of the arts and entertainment industry, cultural representation still has a fair way to go. 

“Even now when you think about South Asian women in mainstream Australian media, we're getting there but it just seems like there's like a massive gap there,” she explains.

As cliché as it may sound, you can’t be what you can’t see. When Majumdar writes her comedy, she naturally writes what she herself thinks would be funny. But the most rewarding part of her job is when other South Asian women with similar lived experiences can resonate with her content.

“I remember one time having a rough show in Adelaide and a brown girl came up to me. She was really lovely and she’s like, ‘Do it for the brown girls’. Ultimately, if there’s a little version of me – they’re always the most satisfying people to make laugh. 

“Often your audiences can be super white if you’re in certain places, or lineups can be pretty white a lot of the time as well. So it does feel good when you can make your community laugh.” 

Urvi Majumdar is performing her comedy show, Burnt at Sydney Comedy Festival from May 9-12. Ticket details are available here