Like most of us, Yozana Thapa Magar loves a good stand-up comedy with relatable jokes and familiar references. Growing up, it was by watching those shows and organizing and performing before a live audience that Magar discovered her love for making people laugh.
“But when I was younger, never did I think I would be a comedian,” says the 24-year-old who has performed around 50 to 60 shows since she started in 2017.
Raised in Damak, Jhapa, she only got to watch popularized western comedy and performances on TV and YouTube. But she enjoyed all kinds of comedy videos, skits, stand-up, and comedy podcasts. At the same time, as a shy and introverted kid, Magar channeled all her feelings to writing, aspiring to be a writer one day. But she thought that one day was distant.
Magar, meanwhile, continued her studies in pharmacology while also working for different pharmacies. After working for three months as a licensed pharmacist she realized that the job didn’t bring her the same joy that the thought of performing live comedy did.
She discovered many open mic shows during her early days in the capital. She finally decided to attend one event to meet people who also connected to comedy as she did.
Magar had just finished her studies and wanted to use the free time to perform, hoping she would return to the pharmacy industry later. But months turned into a year and she found herself still involved in the comedy scene. That opened doors for her to pursue the career of her dreams—writing.
“Comedy really worked out for me,” says Magar, adding that she doesn’t plan on returning to pharmacology any time soon.
After her first few gigs with Nepgasm and The StoryYellers, she started organizing shows with her friends from ComedyTukTuk, a Kathmandu-based comedy team. “The people I met in this industry get most of the credit for what I am today.”
That year of her life fluttered by. “I was just having so much fun, I didn’t realize I’d grown to become a whole new person who had adapted to a completely different lifestyle”, she says. “I truly felt like myself when the impact of my performances started showing and people started recognizing me on the streets.”
Stepping into a field dominated by men, Magar as well as her female friends struggled to get the same level of attention. Her audiences were generally males and there were times when she felt judged and teased by some men who clearly believed women could never be funny.
An introvert Magar struggled with stage fright and nervousness that even led her to forget her jokes. But that never stopped her. “Watching people laugh at my jokes makes me want to keep coming back and make them laugh more,” she says. Today, after four years of performing, nervousness and anxiety remain, but she has taught herself to be more composed on stage.
“I never felt comfortable being talked back to. I’d watched so many women perform and never return to the stage because of the judgment and hate comments they received,” she says. But Magar always found a reason to get back on the stage with the support of her friends and her love for making people laugh. She has also become much better at dealing with uncomfortable situations.
Even Covid-19 couldn’t stop her as she performed around 20 shows even during the second lockdown.
The stand-up comedy culture in Kathmandu was growing and Magar and her friends were organizing shows that were getting larger and larger audiences. But the pandemic put a stop to that. Magar hopes the good ol’ days will soon return.
Magar wants to travel to different countries and perform for people who seek joy in stand-up as much as she does. “To control the whole crowd with what I say is empowering, and I want to keep doing that,” she says. “When people listen to me and laugh at my jokes—nothing makes me happier.”