Amna Bee’s debut stand-up solo comedy show “Don’t Tell My Family” is now on at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Born in Pakistan, Amna studied accounting in Canada, returned to Pakistan to marry an Indian (very taboo according to Amna) only to get divorced, be the shame of her family, and then move to Australia.
During lockdown, Amna did stand-up to entertain herself and her housemates and then decided to put on her own solo show. Very brave of her considering stand-up comedy is on par with prostitution in Pakistan, she explained, and actually, it’s probably better to be a prostitute, she continued, because at least then you’re getting paid and the shame is kept behind closed doors. Before starting the show Amna scanned the audience to make sure nobody she knew from her culture was at her show (because they would probably be a cousin), and we all had to promise not to tell anyone outside of the show what she was about to divulge. The venue was well chosen, an underground room, almost like a dungeon!
I’ve never reviewed someone’s debut solo show, and while a few of Amna’s punch lines missed the mark, the majority of her show – her stories, observations, life experiences, commentary on feminism through the lens of a brown woman – were really very, very funny and relatable. She had some really great gems. Once she started to warm up it was laugh after laugh. I’m sure as she progresses through her comedy career and further refines, she will be a fierce competitor in the comedy circuit. As a divorced, Cypriot-Australian craving feminist voices, I found her show a refreshing change to the white comedy narrative. Although I’m not from Pakistan (a place where men are married to their guns, according to Amna), I could relate to many aspects, and I also learned more about the struggle of Pakistani women to claim their independence and voice.
Amna’s show was opened by a short set by Garry Johal whose ancestry is Indian, born and raised in Singapore. I enjoyed his commentary on Australian drinking culture and lockdown and was especially confronted by his jokes on getting smacked by your parents as a child, a taboo and challenging topic which he managed well.
Koraly Dimitraidis is a Cypriot-Australian writer and performer and the author of Love and F—k Poems and Just Give Me The Pills which together form the basis of her theatre show “I say the wrong things all the time”. Her opinion articles/essays have been published widely including international publications in The Washington Post and The Guardian.
“Don’t Tell My Family” runs 7th April – 18th April at Caz Reitops Dirty Secrets, Collingwood. Book tickets here.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Amna Bee
Photo credit: Michael Reynolds