Embrace who you are - My Take by Pooja Vijay, India's first stuttering comedian

My Take this week is by comedian Pooja Vijay, who refuses to let her stutter come in the way of a fantastic sense of humour. Pooja is based in Bengaluru and has performed on sellout shows across the country.

Comedy happened to me at the spur of the moment. I saw a colleague’s standup routine and thought why not give it a hand? I really enjoyed it and got a lot of positive feedback. I started going for many open mic events and I find it a great way to express myself in a way that connects with others.

I had a stutter all my life. My mother noticed it when I was very young, probably in KG. It became more pronounced when I was 11-12 years old but it was never an issue while growing up. Later my sister’s friend, who is a speech therapist, pointed it out and I went for speech therapy classes.

When I am on stage there is stuttering in my act. In fact, it becomes quite visible and obvious when I am on stage. Initially I was teased and made fun of. People would mock me and that still happens. Sometimes when I say a sentence people say it back at me and that is weird. People think I am fumbling and one time a friend of mine actually had to say - ‘Hey, she really has a stutter, so don’t do that’. I am lucky to have supportive friends and family so even if a few say something its OK.

My stutter does not make me nervous. I actually embrace it. Every time I go onstage I am nervous, but that is true for every comedian. It is who I am. Its just like some people are thin and some are fat. A stutter is just another way of speaking. Why should everyone sound the same? That’s been my philosophy.

I do have my bad days when I get bothered when people say something nasty like – ‘Why you don’t fix it?’ They even tell me that I am faking the stutter for publicity. But the point is that whoever you are, people will always find something to say something about you.

I make my stutter a part of my set for the first few minutes. That is because I want people to get comfortable with the fact that I stutter. A lot of people feel worried about laughing at my jokes about my stutter and I want to break that. I want to tell people to move beyond it.

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