We've come a long way from Asian stereotyping in the likes of Mind Your Language.
As the third series of GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME begins, mainstream glory is imminent. ‘.‘\.’ords: Hannah McGill
SOME DOOR-TO-DOOR RELIGIOUS ZEALOTS have just been sent packing with cries of: ‘we have our own religion. thank you very much!’ ringing in their ears. If they‘d recognised Nina Wadia -- actress. stand-up comic. founder member of the Goodness (I'racious Mc team and co-star of the upcoming I’aul Kaye vehicle Per/cc! World — they might have guessed that a cup of tea would not be forthcoming. Assuming their faith allows them TV sets. they'll know her face soon enough.
‘If you’re in something successful on TV. everyone thinks you‘ve appeared from nowhere.’ Wadia observes in the unwelcome visitors wake. ‘But I worked in theatre for eleven years. People never realise how much serious work you've done.‘ She moved from theatre into stand-up because she 'wasn‘t getting any work‘. and was spotted and courted by the producer of Goodness Gracious Me. ‘I was desperate to do it. but I acted really cool because I‘d already been approached with so many projects that never got off the ground.‘
Goodness Gracious Me took off with some style. and begins its third series in a coveted prime-time slot. Its satirical swipes at Anglo- Asian relations have proved so popular with audiences that the show has achieved what long seemed impossible: mainstream success for Asian comedians. ‘We were majorly taken aback by the response.’ Wadia admits.
She is aware that. as pioneers in their field. the Goodness team share a degree of social
'The problem is not that Ali G is a white man pretend- ing to be Indian, but that if he was Indian, he would not be getting his own show.’ Nina Wadia
Asian gag foundation: Goodnessﬁracious
responsibility not generally conferred upon comedians. ‘lt‘s great when young Asians say. “finally. someone we can look tip to"!‘ 'The hard part is that you're a role model whether you like it or not. Sometimes I think that I‘m an actress and I just want to act. But. you know. the .\Ietropolitan Police have used Gooi/ucss Gracious .llc in their anti-racism education programme. It really is a big thing. and a very positive thing.‘
The politics of comedy are discussed ad nauseam. with the racially ambiguous Ali (i the latest target of columnist ire. Though she's a fan. Wadia is only too aware of the hypocrisy behind the hype. ‘I thought Sacha did a great job.‘ she says. 'The problem is not that he‘s a white man pretending to be Indian. but that if he was Indian. he would not be getting his own show. I think the four of us. if we were white. would have been used in other shows before now. It is still such a struggle for black and Asian actors. but it‘s a tnarkct that‘s slowly opening up..
Wadia hopes to eventually forge a path back into straight acting; but for now. she‘s enjoying the perks of comedy ubiquity. lIer favourite incident of public harassment”? The woman who approached her in the supermarket to rage: ‘your programme is disgusting? I‘ve seen every episode and they‘re all disgustingl' Goodness.
Goodness Gracious Me starts on BBC2, Fri 25 Feb. 9pm.
14 THE LIST 1? Foo-2 Mar 2000