It was a crisp evening in January when I made my way down the sidewalk outside of Zanies comedy club in Nashville. I hurried past a bright neon sign announcing Pinky Patel as the evening’s headliner and made my way through the inconspicuous entrance.
Thanks to my fashionably late nature (aka ADHD), the usher directed me to the only seat left; one tucked in the back of the house by the exit. Introvertedly content, I sat down and scanned over the crowd in front of me. Men and women alike, some young and some older, all buzzing in anticipation of Pinkys entrance. “I’ve followed her on TikTok for years. She is so funny!” I overheard one exclaim. Patel’s tagline “Hello, my priends” echoed from numerous tables as patrons sipped on fruity drinks, unwinding from their typical Thursdays. Plastic crowns of all sizes, shapes and colors reflected the house lights causing the room itself to sparkle.
The opener took the stage, expertly delivering her jokes to the eclectic crowd. She finished in about 15 minutes and made the announcement we had all been waiting for, “Put your hands together for Pinky Patel!”
The sold-out audience roared, clapping and cheering, whooping and whistling as Pinky took the stage. Decked out in her signature crown, a sequined jacket and a messy bun haphazardly thrown on top of her head, Patel greeted Zanies with a contagious smile. Ever-so-skillfully, she built anticipation further by waiting a few minutes to deliver her tagline. And when she did, the crowd went wild.
Pinky’s set flowed like a collection of your favorite stories, peppered with dry wit and her own personal brand of sarcasm. Her one-liners brought out “ugly laughs” from the audience. You know exactly the laughs I’m talking about. Not those cute, little laughs we let out in social settings or on first dates. I’m talking about those horse-teeth-showing, slightly embarrassing guffaws, those accidental snorts that make you cover your mouth desperately hoping no one heard you.
I’m talking about genuine laughter.
She was personable, real, and held nothing back. She was everything you wanted her to be after watching her on your phone screen for almost three years.
On our personal Zoom call the week after, however…just kidding, she was exactly the same way.
Pinky Patel’s comedy career began when she uploaded a rant about grapes on the short-form video app TikTok in 2020. Much to her surprise, the video took off. Slightly confused, she asked her friends at the time, “Have you always thought I was funny?” to which they replied a resounding, “YES! Why do you think we invite you out,? You’re hilarious!” So she continued sharing those hilarious thoughts on the app and rose to comedic fame, amassing more than 5.3 million followers on TikTok alone.
Comedy is, of course, a far cry from her previous career in the corporate world so I had to ask the obvious question of “Why Comedy?”
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” she said without missing a beat, “That feeling when you say something and make someone else laugh, it’s knowing that you can make somebody happy, just being yourself.”
Patel has emerged as yet another TikTok comedian to bring a fresh wind to the art, much like last month’s cover girl and fellow TikToker, Danae Hays. This new wave of comedy strays from the overdone approaches of forced shock and awe, unintelligible vulgarity and inflated egos. Pinky Patel is real, a comedian for the every-woman.
Patel shares stories of her life as a woman, a PTA mom, a wife, and a daughter, connecting with her audience by being exactly who she is, on-stage and off. Though she is frequently referred to as an “influencer,” she hates the term because of the negative connotations that typically follow the title.
Without knowing it, however, she’s re-defining it altogether.
Though her jokes are side-splitting, they are pointed. Armed with a level head and realistic perspective on life, she presents herself in all of her messy glory to send intentional messages in her comedy. “You are more than a mom or a wife. You are more than the labels society places on you, you become whoever you want to be, whatever that looks like.”
That timely and empowering message emerged during last year’s “Hello My Priends Tour” and continues to evolve in her new tour, “New Crown, Who Dhis?” currently underway.
Delivering a healthy dose of new stories and taking a deeper dive into her perspective on life, love and family, Patel continues to give permission to listeners to not only find out who they are but to embrace it. One will quickly release within the first few minutes of her “New Crown, Who Dhis?” show that she not only shares the message but she lives it. She practices what she preaches and proves in her consistency that she is walking the talk and embracing who she is.
That, however, is not her only goal.
With admirable conviction, she plainly states, “My other goal is to be that role model for South Asian girls, for Indian girls.” She continued, “because I didn’t have that in the 80’s and 90’s. There was no Mindy Kaling, I would never have succeeded if I had moved to Hollywood.” Unafraid to state sobering facts, she shared that as a young girl, she had always wanted to be in movies, to be famous. Her dreams were met with reality from her mother, an immigrant, who knew that at that time it would be next to impossible for a girl like Pinky to accomplish. “There’s no place for us there,” her mother educated her.
“I understood that as I grew up and watched more and more TV and movies and listened to more songs. There were no Indian people there,” she said, “But now we have Mindy Kaling… Lily Singh is out there but it’s still just a small amount of people, there’s still only just a few South Asians.”
“I want little Indian girls to watch their moms laugh because they have a phone in front of them and when they peek over their shoulders, it’s me, an Indian woman on their screen, making their mom laugh. To me, that is full circle.”
When Patel sees Indian people in the crowd at her shows, her response is, “Yes, bitches, yes!” Because, as she explained to me, women of her culture don’t do that. “Indian women have not been given the go-ahead to be selfish,” she says, “If we would go do something for ourselves outside of our duties, we would be told we were being selfish.”
Not only does Pinky want to provide more representation for Indian girls in entertainment, she wants to show them that it is okay for them to find themselves outside of their traditional roles, to discover their own, unique identity and “to have fun, I just want to show them they can have fun.”
That she has done and continues to do as she makes her way, traveling from city to city, leaving nothing but laughter and smiles in her wake, giving a living permission to let go, let loose and just be yourself. Messy bun and all.