You wouldn’t know by watching her perform, but Rohini Jayanthi has only been in the stand-up comedy game for about 18 months. She shares stories about growing up in India as a queer daughter with conservative parents with the cool confidence of a seasoned performer. By day, she’s a machine learning scientist at Netflix—“Not a real scientist!”—and she got into the funny business on a whim.
“I was bored out of my mind [during the pandemic] and received an email from Tasveer about a workshop called Desi Girls Comedy Project,” she told me. “I still remember being ecstatic just for getting selected for the workshop. It left a lasting impact on me. For the showcase, we performed at Broadway Performance Hall to conclude the Tasveer Film Festival 2021. After that, I challenged myself to continue comedy to break the pattern of quitting once things get boring or difficult. Whether I want to be more invested in comedy is a discussion I regularly have with myself. But for now, I’m happy with how things are going.”
And things are going well. She’s opened for Hari Kondabolu, and she’s shared stages with other local greats including Andy Iwancio and Juno Men. In April she’ll perform at the Babe Cave comedy showcase at Here-After with Iwancio, Jill Silva, Cara Rosellini, and Fat Cats Improv. You should go! Unless you are her parents—her parents are not invited.
In your set, you’ve talked about how your mom had a hard time accepting that you’re gay. Surely that was a heavy experience, but you make it funny! Is comedy how you process life’s hard shit?
Yes! I’ve always struggled to cry in difficult situations. Instead, the knot in my throat comes out as a joke. Sarcasm and irony come easy, but most people don’t know that I love doing physical comedy and impressions. Growing up, my parents would repeatedly ask me to do impressions. My dad is probably the inventor of dad jokes and my mom laughs quite easily, so I had a good audience at home. However, after turning a basic human impulse into my hobby, some days I want nothing to do with it. When I hear, “Why did the chicken cross the street?” I say, “Because the walk sign was on.”
You have some very funny material about your parents’ relationship. Did you tell them they’d be mentioned in your act?
Oh, no! They know nothing. My parents are actually very proud of my hobby and have asked repeatedly to watch my videos. I’ve worked very hard to ensure that never happens.
Where do you like to perform in Seattle?
I love Here-After, the Rendezvous, and Broadway Performance Hall. I’ve always had a good time at Here-After and gotten to know touring comedians. Rendezvous hosts the open mic Comedy Nest, where I performed onstage for the first time. The community there has been incredibly welcoming. It kept me going whenever I wanted to stop. Broadway Performance Hall was my very first non-open-mic performance. It’s a bigger venue and can feel daunting, but also exhilarating. When you hear the huge roar of laughter, that’s what every comedian wants.
Other than the Babe Cave show, are there any other local comedy shows you’re looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to Joketellers Union (especially the Beacon Hill news segment), Safeword, Flock!, and Socially Inept, a tech roast show. I’d also recommend checking if the Disabled List has its monthly show coming up. Their recent festival was outstanding!
See Rohini Jayanthi perform as part of the Babe Cave comedy show on April 5 at Here-After.