Performer and writer, Ambika Vas has had much success with projects between Vancouver, Los Angeles and Mumbai. BizAsiaLive.com ‘s Raj Baddhan caught up with Vas about her switch from the Finance industry to pursue her comedy and acting dreams.
Ambika, you’ve had quite a colourful journey on television & stage over the years, how would you describe it?
It has been exhilarating! Because I waited so long to finally pursue this dream, I find that I am extremely energized and inspired which has helped keep me very busy.
You made a daring shift from your full time work in finance to comedy & acting, how nervous were you with the move & do you have any regrets looking back?
Moving from a steady job in Finance where I received a paycheck every month to a career in comedy & acting where there is no guarantee of payment or employment, is nerve-racking but exciting at the same time. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff when I moved to LA. I quickly realized that this career path requires a great deal of dedication, patience and a willingness to continually fail and learn from those failures. That being said, I think it was the best decision I have ever made and I have no regrets!
How do you feel comedy has changed from when you first started to where you are now?
When I started performing comedy, it was in front of live audiences which meant immediate feedback from them. If a joke wasn’t working out, I could easily shift the course of my performance. Now that I am creating videos and they are air online or on TV, it is difficult to know how the audience will respond. I make a point to test out all of my material with friends and family before finalizing it!
It’s an incredible move for an Indian woman to work in what is seen as unconventional work for a woman, what kind of obstacles did you face when you started off?
Both Private Equity and Comedy are male-dominated industries and considered unconventional for a woman. I am fortunate that my parents have been supportive of both career choices. The main similarities in both careers is that they tend to be ‘boys clubs’ and as a woman you have to work twice as hard as the men to progress. I think it is helpful to form alliances with other females in the industry so that you can support each other and help navigate the environment.
In a pandemic, which we are just coming out of, comedy plays an important part to keep the public sane. However, during these times, sensitivity is also important – how have you changed your sketches to fit in with today’s times?
I try to focus on lighter subjects as people are already dealing with so much stress and anxiety. I did sketches about non-covid related topics such as parody of Tiger King or the Spelling Bee.
I started stand-up comedy in London, then moved to LA, and now Vancouver. Each city has its own sense of humor and in order to understand it, you have to get to know the culture.
In fact, when I started making sketch videos during the pandemic it was mainly a way to cheer up my parents who are based in India. My father starred in the videos and it was entertaining for them and all of their friends.
You keep your comedy relevant with what is current such as the Bollywood nepotism debate and more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement, how important is it for an artist like yourself to keep comedy current?
I tend to get inspiration from current events which is why they are featured so heavily in my sketches. Also, I think it helps keep the audience engaged as the topics are constantly changing.
Have there been any stand out moments where your comedy sketches haven’t worked as well as they should have?
I started stand-up comedy in London, then moved to LA, and now Vancouver. Each city has its own sense of humor and in order to understand it, you have to get to know the culture. Therefore, when I moved to LA and Vancouver, my first shows were not great! But as a stand-up comedian, that is part of the job. You have to try things out and see how they land! Eventually, I started updating my material to match the audience’s humor.
You’re also very tech savvy with regular comedy sketches on your social media & YouTube channel, tell us more?
When I was in LA, I had friends who would help me with editing for my videos and posting on social media etc. Since the pandemic started and I was making videos regularly, I had to teach myself how to do everything. I am still learning and have quite a way to go!
Follow your dreams! It’s never too late to give it a try because everything you have done in your life will gives you perspective and experience that will help in the new path. You will have failures on the way, but they will make your successes that much sweeter.