When they’re not flipping tables or throwing glasses of wine in each other’s faces, some Bravo celebrities try to make the leap from the small screen to the stage. Some have even attempted to become pop singers, though no one has ever accused any of them of sounding like Adele.
Anisha Ramakrishna’s crossover into live comedy, however, is no fluke or novelty. The star of Bravo’s Family Karma made her stand-up debut last year at New York’s famed Carolines on Broadway. Now she’s in the middle of a national tour, which includes a stop at San Jose Improv on Oct. 5.
Born in India and raised in Indonesia, Ramakrishna was a 30-something entrepreneur with a clothing line when she and some other cast members were discovered on Instagram by a talent executive.
Family Karma, which conveniently began airing right at the start of the Covid lockdown in 2020, was the first reality show to focus on young Indian-American professionals from multi-generational families living in Miami and dealing with the pressures of dual cultures, careers and relationships.
During the series, fans watched Ramakrishna fend off her parents’ demands to tie the knot and have children, try online dating and freeze her eggs. They also watched her crack jokes and act funny (some of which went viral), like the time she told a producer that her “dating age range” was somewhere between “31 to a coffin.”
After three seasons, Ramakrishna got her happy ending when last October she married a nice Indian man from Scottsdale, Arizona, where she currently splits her time.
A few weeks after her nuptials, Ramakrishna was invited to perform in an all-female South Asian comedy night called the Kutti Gang at Carolines.
“I’d been told I was funny, but I’ve never had any stand-up experience,” says Ramakrishna. “I just went and did it kind of like a one-and-done deal and had fun with it. But I actually did pretty well.”
On her podcast, Currently Cringing, Ramakrishna talked about getting into comedy at 38 and why she prefers to think of herself as a storyteller.
“I love it because it’s just me,” says Ramakrishna, who names Eddie Murphy, Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler and Russell Peters as influences. “There’s no one to blame. There’s no one to point the finger at. You either have it or you don’t. When the jokes don’t land and the room is silent, you know not to say those jokes again. It’s pretty black and white. On a reality show, you can say that the viewers aren’t there, you can factor that in. But when you’re doing stand-up comedy, it’s just you on stage with an audience.”
Success from Carolines led to a spot at the Miami Improv, where, according to Ramakrishna, she “bombed.”
“I had put so much pressure on myself to impress my parents, their friends, my community,” remembers Ramakrishna. “Those are the people you want to impress the most, especially when you’re South Asian.”
But flopping in front of her hometown crowd didn’t deter Ramakrishna from pursuing stand-up. Although on stage she pokes the usual fun at her family, Indian culture and newlywed life, her humor can be universal to anyone. (When a woman in her audience once said her mother-in- law lived in Africa, Ramakrishna told her she had “won the lottery of life.”)
The comedy “late bloomer” has done more than a dozen stand-up dates so far but more importantly, she’s helping to break the social barriers for other comedians of South Asian descent, particularly women.
“I talk about it in a comedic way, but part of my message in my shows is to fake it till you make it, and it’s very important,” says Ramakrishna. “Just believe in yourself, even if others don’t. I was in my late 30s and didn’t know what I was doing when we started Family Karma. I didn’t have a job, wasn’t in a relationship, and those are the things that give you credibility in the world, but especially in South Asian culture. Everyone thought I was ruining the community, tarnishing my family name and my reputation as a woman in the culture. And now people are calling me a trailblazer. Fans of Family Karma know my humor, so they’re gonna think I’m funny regardless. But the ones who don’t go and buy tickets to my shows and think I’m funny are the ones that make me think, ‘OK, I’m gonna keep doing this.’”
Thurs, 8 p.m., $25
The Improv, San Jose