Aunty Baji #1

The following post is brought to you by the good folks over at rubbish TV. Sandwiched between such mullet-tastic gems as Full House (Uncle Jesse = hot, just sayinÂ’) and Roseanne there was born a shiny new talent. A Great Brown Hope, if you will. Ladies and ladas, I present to you Rubi Nicholas, AmericaÂ’s Funniest Mom:RubiNicholas.jpg

Rubi Nicholas’s mouthful of a life became her comedy routine. She’s a Pakistani Muslim with a Greek Orthodox, stay-at-home husband who converted to Islam. They live in a Denver suburb with their daughters. They fit in just fine. “Except,” she says in her stand-up routine, “every time my daughter leaves her Barbie Jeep in someone else’s driveway they call the bomb squad.”. [Link]

The Nickelodeon show consisted of six weeks of Apprentice-style comedy challenges set in a New York City penthouse. Episodes are available on the Nickelodeon website.

When she was a child she enjoyed calling her school and pretending to be her mother with excuses for absences, she says in her routine. She grew up in Pottsville, Pa., a coal region in the central part of the state. “Calling to let you know that Rubi will not be in school today. For today we celebrate the holy festival of the blind goat,” Ms. Nicholas says in a heavy Pakistani accent. And did somebody mention airports? “So a little bit about me,” Ms. Nicholas said in the final show. “I married a white guy to improve my airport cred. Yeah, and he had to become a Muslim to marry me, and he had to marry me because you know what they say. Once you go Pak … that’s right, you’ll never eat pork again.”

Walking away with a hosting gig, the chance to develop a sitcom, and a cool $50, 000, Rubi aunty managed to ruffle a few feathers as is evident from show’s message boards. Some parents found her act “too racist”, “prejudiced towards Middle Easterners and Muslims”, and insensitive towards 9/11 (huh?).

Sabrina Jalees, a Torontonian comic who is no stranger to race-based comedy, writes in her weekly Toronto Star column:

Canada’s most recent U.S. export and rising star, Russell Peters, is a great example of how successful race-based humour is when done right. One of his most popular jokes follows an act out revolving around Indians being cheap and Chinese people being stubborn. The audience welcomes these generalizations with giddy giggles ’cause a) his impressions are bang on and hilarious, and b) although being East Indian, Peters doesn’t have a Chinese bone in his body, he gets away with poking fun because everyone in the room is aware there’s nothing malicious behind the joke. The lesson? If the audience knows in its heart that you’re coming from an innocent standpoint, then you can get away with race-based comedy. And that’s why you can laugh at “racist” jokes. The best ones are an indictment against people who would say such things and actually mean them — without trying to make anyone laugh. [Link]

I agree with JaleesÂ’s yardstick mostly because when it comes to comedy I am not politically correct enough to want to give up my Richard Pryor, Sarah Silverman, Umar Sharif, and Dave Chappelle. If Nicholas can use personal experience to pull off racial comedy on a kids network then more power to her. Her future plans:

If things work out with Nick at Nite, though, she envisions her own television show as “hugely autobiographical,” a kind of “I Love Lucy” in which she and her family supply the exotic element that Ricky Ricardo provided for his daffy, red-headed wife.

Not quite sure why IÂ’m cringingÂ…ah, must be the ‘E’ bomb. Still, IÂ’d watch it.

104 thoughts on “Aunty Baji #1

  1. from the jokes i’ve read, there are not that original. a lot of desi kids did the “i called in sick with some ridiculous-sounding holiday” joke, in an accent. i think its a bit lazy and not really all that unifying. you can’t compare it with Richard Pryor. Richard Pryor’s jokes stung the audience, and at the same time affirmed some common fellow-feeling. i guess its nice to have a desi person win something like this, but i don’t get the feeling her win means that use firengis are more accepted than we were before. maybe if i were a young desi auntie i’d be stoked, but since i’m not, the appeal is mostly lost

  2. ok lets leave Govinda out of this He was funny in his earlier movies not like his recent cheapshot nonsensical overthetop movies. Now he is an MP, now that my friend is some funny shit

  3. Sahej,

    maybe if i were a young desi auntie i’d be stoked, but since i’m not,

    Rumour has it that you like to dress up in a salwaar-kameez on the weekends and insist on being addressed as “Suhasini Auntie”‘;)

  4. By the way Rubi Nichol’s joke about phoning her child’s school and telling them that her daughter must be given the day off school because of ‘the festival of the Blind Goat’ is a BRILLIANT joke that mocks gently the gullibility of white people and their ignorance of Muslim/Desi culture being exploited by a slightly naughty woman who recognises that gap in knowledge and the better nature of those people to respect multi-cultural mores and at the same time she ribs Muslims/Desis and their cultural/religious ways and occasions.

    That was a long-ass sentence! I took a deep breath after getting through that one =)

  5. Rumour has it that you like to dress up in a salwaar-kameez on the weekends and insist on being addressed as “Suhasini Auntie”‘;)

    okayyyy

    people have too much time on their hands i’m thinking

  6. That was a long-ass sentence! I took a deep breath after getting through that one =)

    I aim to write a sentence one day so long that only David Blaine could read it without drawing breath :-)

  7. Sahej bro,

    I’m just kidding ;) I’m not really in the mood for ultra-serious debates, as indicated by the various “Desistan” posts I’ve been submitting here recently…..

    Anyway, back to the Russell Peters/Shazia Mirza face-off. Carry on, people.

  8. I aim to write a sentence one day so long that only David Blaine could read it without drawing breath :-)

    Wow. That sentence would have, like, thirty words.

  9. I’m just kidding ;) I’m not really in the mood for ultra-serious debates, as indicated by the various “Desistan” posts I’ve been submitting here recently…..

    all good man, no worries

    in other news, there’s a desistan thread? that looks like a good book

  10. ^^ check that…by “desistan” i thought you meant “absurdistan” …which is a good new book out. btw i want some kind of post in the ministry of samosas and chaat in desistan if you can swing it

  11. I aim to write a sentence one day so long that only David Blaine could read it without drawing breath :-)

    Forget his breathing skills, David Blaine takes about half an hour to say “do you want to see something amazing?” I feel sleepy just listening to him. Get Shankar Mahadevan on the case!

    3D we may disagree about the Rubi joke – but your point about the audience was spot on. I didn’t want to use the ‘uncle tom’ term but I think it’s apt. Are you familiar with Alf Garnet? He was a deeply racist character in the 1970s on British TV. He became a cult figure with racist thugs, but was actually played by a Jewish man and the whole programme was intended to mock him and his views, just like David Brent in the Office. But when I watch it, it’s always clear if we’re laughing with or at – so sometimes the line can be blurred. Obviously David Brent is there to be ridiculed and pitied, like Larry David, but Alf Garnet was a bit hazy. I guess that was 30 years ago, so things have evolved.

    As a side note, remember that GGM’s most famous sketch – and the number 6 funniest sketch as voted by the British public – was the brilliant ‘Going for an English‘ sketch, which pokes fun at white people and is made for a predominantly white audience. And no white people were offended at all. It’s as funny every time I watch it, priceless.

  12. “…You don’t get black comedians saying to a white audience: “Sorry I’m late, I was stealing cars and smoking a crack pipe…”

    not the exact words, but I’ve heard black comedians play on their own stereotypes, to help show how stupid they are. It was quite funny.

  13. Sahej,

    You want an offical role in the Ministry of Khana-Khazaana ? You’ll have to fight it out with Sanjeev Kapoor (from Zee TV).

    Make some exotic dish for DesiDancer and her hubby, it may be a good way to bribe persuade her to give you a role in the DD Administration. Apparently she’s SM’s resident superchef.

  14. Bill Hicks is one of my favourite comedians Papal, believe me I love offensive humour.

    YES!


    Now for the rest of you – who is Govinda?

  15. and might I add my two cents………….

    The best comedians are observant, insightful and super intelligent: these are few and far in between. The rest just appeal to the lowest common denominator. Terrorist jokes – bah – MOST of the time these permission slips for white to laugh in a pc world – not meant to educate or enlighten.

  16. Make some exotic dish for DesiDancer and her hubby, it may be a good way to bribe persuade her to give you a role in the DD Administration. Apparently she’s SM’s resident superchef.

    dude i ain’t cooking nothing for someone’s husband! anyway, maybe i can buy some chutney instead

  17. “You don’t get black comedians saying to a white audience: “Sorry I’m late, I was stealing cars and smoking a crack pipe”

    actually chris rock puts a few of those jokes into his show “everybody hates chris” but it’s not done in a crude, pandering way and those jokes are part of a wider sit-com that show the family (his as he was growing up) and other African-Americans as a loving unit concerned about things most people are: good morals, education, love etc. he also pokes gentle fun at the whites at his all-white school and the stereotypes they have about him as the only black student there. i personally find the show really funny.

  18. the brilliant ‘Going for an English’ sketch, which pokes fun at white people and is made for a predominantly white audience.

    Brilliant and mutinous as all hell. Thanks for putting it up.

    I do like going for an English from time to time. Especially since I’m such a big fan of exotic English literature (like Graham Greene, Helen Fielding, Julian Barnes and Barbara Cartland).

  19. Sahej,

    Well, I just thought it might be a safer alternative to secretly sneaking her your samples and then risking getting beaten up by her husband for plying his wife with haute cuisine, even if it is for a noble cause.

    Anyway, if you like to live dangerously, go for it. Although you might want to consider exactly why Punjabi Boy has mysteriously disappeared off the face of the earth…..

    Manish,

    There’s much better desi humor waiting to be created.

    Yes, but you guys may need an American version of the GGM crowd. As I’ve mentioned before, GGM did a huge amount here in the UK to subvert stereotypes and, simultaneously, educate the wider population about (South) Asians. Meera Syal has subsequently proceeded to “continue the cause” via other TV shows and some films. She hasn’t resorted to Gurinder Chadha tactics either, fortunately.

  20. nah i’ll just bring chutney and see if that’s good enough to get me a position with pension

  21. I loved Goodness Gracious me…

    The father who always concluded everything was ‘Indian’ and the poor son whose parents guiltripped him about abything he did….

    great stuff….i wish they’d do me repeats on BBC america.

  22. Bong

    GGM cracks me up! They are funnier than any other desi sketch act I have seen before. See this clip and compare against Karmacy :)

    My favourite GGM sketch was this parody of Aqua’s Barbie Girl called ‘Punjabi Girl’. Does anyone have a copy of the lyrics?

  23. OK I’ve watch Rubi Aunty. Carlton’s a judge! Yeah!

    Screw the jokes, more than anything I want to inflict horrific amounts of pain on her for the AQI. All people who speak like this must, MUST be punished.

    I now see AQI isn’t on urban dictionary or equivalents. It’s Australian Questioning Intonation. As in going UP? like at the END? of every PHRASE? It fucking BUGS ME?

  24. BB – Now that you mention it, are you talking about the episode with zee Germans were Basil Fawlty goes on about the war and then refers to Poland?”

    “you started it” “No I didn’t” “yes you did, you invaded Poland”

    Classic.

  25. Oh but you should, you should! See, to me, that shit is funny. Because it creates this weird zone where whitey is laughing, but also thinking, “should I be laughing?”

    Actually, it creates a not-so-weird zone in which the Black performer starts thinking “should i be performing?” That’s what happened to Dave Chappelle.

  26. BB – Shazia Mirza was big before 9/11 – in fact, much of her work was thwarted by 9/11. I was living from ’99 through ’01 (and then NYC), saw her rapid rise and many of her bigger projects being dropped because of sensitivities post 9/11 (for example there was a bbc show in development at the time that they specifically put on hold b/c of the post 9/11 environment). With regards to Rubi and the intonation – i think it’s more commonly referred to as “upspeak” here in the States (and, while annoying, apparently quite common in central PA and southern cal). With regards to the comedy,opinions differ, but i think you also need to look at the question of general audience vs. desi specific audiences through a Homi Bhaba theoretical lens of subversion as well. Yeah, i guess it’s not all that serious, but (i) the 9/11 issue is kind of the elephant in the room for any muslim comic or otherwise and addressing it at the front end effectively disarms a general audience crowd and provides a level of comfort and (ii) we need a range of comics – i saw a set last night (gurus of comedy) where all the jokes were for desi specific audiences (i.e. jokes about outsourcing, aunties, cheapness, being a doctor, engineer or computer tech, arranged marriages, hating on darker folks and parental accents). it was funny, but for a general audience to get these jokes, do we really want to solidify this stereotype and then ghettoize ourselves by continual reference to what makes indians “indian”? There’s got to be some range which i think Shazia (who did a lot of her early live work about the school system in the UK) and, Rubi, who spends a good chunk of her routine riffing on family and kids, provides.

  27. Bong breaker, Oh. My. God. I know what you mean about her voice. I didn’t even know people still talked like that. I mean, she’s funny, but it’s a good thing her act only lasted 2 minutes. One of the judges actually made a comment about her AQI. If you think about it, yeah, she is the funniest mom in America. How much more humorous can your life get when your a Muslim mom married to an Orthodox Greek guy in post 9/11 and post Greek Wedding America?

  28. ^^ the premis of Big Fat Greek Wedding was the Greek woman was “ethnic” and her husband was WASPy. the premise here is the desi is ethnic and her husband is “mainstream”. i can think of a few things more funny that this premise. “MBFGW” was not so much funny as “heart-warming”. in that its always heart-warming when an ethnic woman puts up with all the barriers it takes to find love in the mainstream

  29. ^^ not that there’s anything easy about being an ethnic woman trying to find love. but, as an ethnic guy….its kinda gag me with a spoon syrupy kind of stuff

  30. remember alanis on ycdtotv?

    “i did NOT know that!” (a la my best Carson voice)

    whoddathunk!

  31. Hi all -

    A friend sent my sis this link – I had to check and see what’s up? All I gotta say is, why do y’all keep referring to me as aunty? Is my butt that big?

    I AM A “BAJI” DAMMIT.

    Peace out, Rubi Baji

  32. Why all the commotion, yaar ?!

    How come everyone’s all hot and bothered by comedians poking fun at racial stereotypes? Russell Peters is not the only one who takes a swipe at stereotypical traits (ie “Indians are cheap”). Lots of white comedians make use of stereotypes about the white race, ie “white men can’t dance”, white men are puny, whites are this and that. Chris Rock does it with African Americans, and hello, what about those famous Jewish comedians who go at Jews all the time?

    Personally, this doesn’t bother me as long as it is understood as jokes, not facts.

    Peace Out, Cheap Ass

  33. Hi – it’s me again- I’ve read through all of the comments, and want you guys to actually see my whole set. It’s posted online at http://www.nickatnite.com/funniestmom under “bonus footage” you can also learn more about me under Rubi Nicholas Highlights.

    Please note that I use few religious jokes, and play on the American ignorance of our cultures and backgrounds, I also talk about my husband and children…so look at the whole picture without judgment…and the upspeaking thing must’ve been nerves – true that it’s a central PA thang – came creeping back because of all the high energy…sorry about that I agree completely that it was totally annoying (and eighties).

    Anyway, the point, I was working on material that would get us some exposure by WINNING the contest, and the only way to win is to be unique and charming. We’ve got a chance to get on the map in a lighthearted positive way. Last time I checked, Muslims on TV don’t really fit that mold very well, do they?

    I don’t hold myself up as any kind of scholar…feel free to correct me in any true sharia violations (PS I already know about the haircovering violation), I’m happy to hear it. If you don’t like my jokes, that’s okay too. Just take a look first.

    And don’t call me Aunty!

    Best, Rubi Baji

  34. Rubi (no “Aunty” Rubi!!)

    …so look at the whole picture without judgment I don’t hold myself up as any kind of scholar…feel free to correct me in any true sharia violations (PS I already know about the haircovering violation), I’m happy to hear it. If you don’t like my jokes, that’s okay too. Just take a look first.i>

    It is endearing and nice to know that you are sensitive to what has been written about you on this blog.

    Look, don’t worry about what others think of you. Some of the comments on this blog have overanalyzed and politicized humor and consequently, have their chuddis all up in a bunch. This shouldn’t effect your work. Laughter should never be drowned out.

  35. I just watched the clip. Very cute.

    You did real good. I can’t imagine performing in front of a such a huge crowd.

    And it’s sweet the way you’ve written on this blog, too. Thanks Ruby Aun…I mean Rubi Baji. :)

  36. Those clips was pretty funny Rubi. I think it’s really cool that you’re breaking all kinds of stereotypes (muslim woman comedian, working spouse etc. etc.) — very impressive. Also: what’s “Baji” ?

  37. “It is endearing and nice to know that you are sensitive to what has been written about you on this blog.”

    There are many blogs out there about the contest, moms, etc – this is the only one I care about – because you are my community, and I know that you, most of all, care the most about my successes and failures. As an ABCD who grew up in the eighties, with no Internet, chats, text msgs etc. – we were isolated from one another. Now, we get to really link arms and show the world who we are and what we are capable of – yeah, we’re smart, yeah, we like science and business, but oh yeah – we are FUNNY and we LOVE LIFE and value one another. That’s what matters most to me.

    Best, Rubi Baji

  38. To answer my own unanswered question :

    Also: what’s “Baji” ?

    It appears that Baji means older sister. (Atleast according to this site. Thank you google.)

  39. Rubi:

    As an ABCD who grew up in the eighties, with no Internet, chats, text msgs etc. – we were isolated from one another.

    Um, just one minor detail: about the “ABCD” thing…. I’m not too sure that “Confused” is an accurate description of what American Born Desis (ABD’s) go through… if you would like to see what I mean, check out American Made:

    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/003337.html

    You should look for comment #42, posted by S Jain Uncleji- this is where things start to get nasty. My subsequent response was #45, and things just went downhill from there. We Mutineers wrote eloquent, touching, and insightful comments.

    Oh, and a little warning: if we find out that you have been “borrowing” material from Sepia Mutiny for your own skits, rest assured that a Kaavya-like fate will fall upon you.

    –Cheap Ass Desi

  40. dhaavak

    i swore the last dude on the apprentice was indian..but wasn’t sure…could’ve been hispanic..thanks for showing us the light..(and he should have remained on the show..) trump is an ass as always.

  41. Dhaavak:

    i was putting up gandhi’s bust in the living room when i slipped and it landed on my nuts. it squeezed the jizz out of me and all over gandhi’s head.

    my balls were caught in the oven grill when i was bringing out the whole roast baby.

    After all that abuse, that poor little guy is not going to be up for anything anymore! He’s all burned out and the spirit has been squeezed out of him.

  42. Oops. Forgot to quote:

    Dhaavak:

    -i was putting up gandhi’s bust in the living room when i slipped and it landed on my nuts. it squeezed the jizz out of me and all over gandhi’s head.

    -my balls were caught in the oven grill when i was bringing out the whole roast baby.

    After all that abuse, that poor little guy is not going to be up for anything anymore! He’s all burned out and the spirit has been squeezed out of him.

  43. hey Rubi Baji,

    Ya know you never think there’s real people involved when you have discussions about “celebs” but I think you’ve got a great spirit. Good job and good luck in the future