An Interview with Sapna Kumar

SapnaSapna Kumar life’s experiences as an immigrant that went from Bombay India to the cultural epicenter that is the state of Indiana serve as an infinite and delicious source of material for this hilarious and sassy lesbian. In her act, she talks about her immigrant parents, their whimsical quips & attempts to understand and raise their Indian American children. She tells of her parents’ reactions when they found out she was a lesbian and even worse a stand up comic! Sapna also shares with her audience her satirical take on love and employment, or lack thereof with candor and just a hint of bitterness. Referred to as Chicago’s answer to Margaret Cho, Sapna’s accolades include Windy City Times’ 30 Under 30 and Curve Magazine’s Lesbian Comics to “Keep Your Eye On”. However, something not often mentioned is her genuine support of our LGBTQ community as demonstrated by her many performances for benefits such as the one this Thursday, February 28th for the Broadway Youth Center.

The L Stop: How did you come to choose to be a stand up comic?

Sapna Kumar: I did my first stand-up set in college, and it went well. I did some professional work on and off. I always chose to do stand-up at night on top of my regular jobs. I just was constantly burning the candle at both ends, and I felt dead tired for shows. So given some good opportunities, I’ve had more time to commit to stand-up and other creative endeavors.

TLS: How difficult was it to get the support from your family?

SK: After I got a couple minutes on Last Comic Standing in 2006, my dad told all his friends at work, but he was careful to insist that it was just my “hobby” and I had another job. My mom never really knew I was so “out” in my act. They both would have been horrified had they heard me talking so openly about my sexuality on stage in front of the public.

TLS: What do you love about being a comic? What do you hate about it?

SK: I love when a new bit works. I hate how little it pays.

TLS: Do you put “stand up comic” under profession in applications?

SK: No. I don’t believe it is advisable to do this as your “only” profession if you are concerned about the cost of health care.

TLS: Is performing to a queer crowd preferable to you? Does it make a difference?

SK: I like performing to lesbians, I’ll admit it. I sometimes joke that maybe I should just do lesbian separatist comedy, like at Women and Children First forever. But I’ve enjoyed playing large mainstream clubs like the Improv in Schaumburg just as well. You feel like there are people hearing your story and they’ve never really heard much about ethnic queer girls before.

TLS: Does being a stand up comic help or hinder in your love life?

SK: What love life? Is that enough to answer that question?

TLS: What kind of changes have you noticed in the Chicago comedy scene?

SK: It’s incredibly saturated, but at the same time, more respectful of comics. I can’t imagine years back that hecklers would actually be kicked out of an audience. I think that’s progress for stand-up.

TLS: Ultimately what would your dream job/gig be?

SK: I don’t know at this point. I’ve worn a lot of hats in life — theater actor, stand-up comic, improviser, editor in the publishing industry, and some scriptwriting. I have hard time just choosing one or two things to focus on. I like switching gears and maybe that’s my biggest obstacle in growing in any one direction.

TLS: What do you think is the least understood thing about stand up comics?

SK: I don’t know. No two people are alike, just like no two stand-up comics are alike. But one thing is we rehearse and polish our sets in front of crowds. You have to work a new bit for a while before it works. And you can’t work that bit without a crowd. So the first few times you bring it up in front of a crowd, it may suck. But in two or three shows later, it may be a great joke. There is less forgiveness for stand-up’s jokes not working. People are under the impression that we write like novelists. Maybe some comics do, but most I know keep a set list with their one-word or one-line of thoughts about a topic — their bits. Ya know what I mean!

FruitLoopsSapna Kumar — Sapna has been seen on LOGO TV’s “One Night Stand-Up 9,” NBC’s “Last Comic Standing 4,” and in the films Promise Land and Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together. She was a Top 14 Finalist in the MagnersUSA National Comedy Festival, selected for the 2012 Women in Comedy Festival, and in the Top 8 Finalists in UP Comedy Club’s search for the Best Comedians in Chicago in 2012.

See her and Ever Mainard this Thursday
February 28th at their show:

Fruit Loops
Thursday, February 28th
Doors open at 7:30pm, show at 8:30pm / No cover / 6341 N. Clark St.
Ever Mainard and Sapna Kumar, 2 of Chicago’s greatest lesbian comics are performing a special show to benefit the Broadway Youth Center. They will be presenting co-headlining sets, challenging themselves to entertain the audience with two back-to-back 35-40 minute sets.

In lieu of cover, attendees can bring a donation for the Broadway Youth Center, including toiletries, undergarments, CTA passes, and food gift cards.

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About Alma

A Chicago original of Mexican decent, Alma has been part of the Chicago’s LGBTQ community longer than she’d like to admit. She’s been maneuvering through its diverse social circles, networking relentlessly in an attempt to satisfy her need to understand and get to know the people that make up our amazing and unique community. Her path began as a social butterfly whose interests were solely to meet and entertain friends. Now her desire is to channel her strengths, talents and passion into ways she can be of service for the Chicago LGBTQ community that she so loves and respects.


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