Maya Deshmukh Is a Prop Queen

Maya Deshmukh Photo: Evan Schapiro

Maya Deshmukh (@mayadesh) is a comedian and character performer based in New York. She won first place in the NBC/UCB diversity showcase doing characters, and can be seen performing with her satirical fake K-pop girl group AzN POP! as well as co-hosting a monthly “fashion comedy” show called Fashion Puh-leeze. She has been featured on Betches, Nick Mom, Funny or Die, and in HBO’s High Maintenance. She also works part-time as a general dentist. Her Instagram handle is @mayadesh.

This week, Deshmukh and I discussed crystal yoni eggs, comedy gatekeepers, and telling her dental patients about her upcoming sketch shows.

What motivated you to pursue comedy?
Ha! I’m kind of a troll that loves attention soooo … I grew up doing musical theater, and I was always cast in the comedic roles (witch, old woman, Hoe — a.k.a. everything I aspire to be), and it was always a good fit. I am kind of a clown and I loved making people laugh. When I moved to New York and was looking to perform, improv was an easy transition, which helped me transition into the comedy world. I didn’t love doing improv, so I eventually moved into more writing, characters, sketch, and musical comedy.

I am obsessed with Amal — all we see is her just being fabulous arm candy at bougie events (Met Gala, royal wedding, etc.), when in actuality she is so incredibly accomplished and is actually doing work that makes a difference. I imagine that she is working around the clock, multitasking like a beast, just being the badass accomplished woman. Meanwhile George Clooney is doing God knows what. What was his last movie? Hail, Caesar? Exactly, no one knows or cares. I also am a prop queen, so this hat was made with a paper plate and a manila envelope. I was at my in-laws’ for the weekend, and decided I JUST HAD TO MAKE CONTENT. God bless my mother-in-law who frantically helped me find materials for this hat.

Do you think social media has changed your sense of humor in any way? Has it changed the way you write jokes or what you joke about?
Hmmm … I don’t think it’s changed my humor, but it has changed my life! Which I guess could have an effect on my humor. In the comedy world, social media has definitely leveled the playing field. Creators don’t have to get past certain gatekeepers to make content. When I was coming up, certain comedy theaters got to curate talent, essentially deciding who would get to perform or do shows, which can make or break careers. Now, with social media, people can make their own content and let the people decide. There is definitely more pressure to be topical when you are releasing jokes or characters to be relevant. Social media definitely democratizes things, but it is also a curse and can make you feel worthless!

Tell us about your fake K-Pop group AzN Pop. How did that come to be? Do you feel like diversity or representation is inching closer to equal on the comedy scene?
AzN PoP! My fam! AzN PoP is made up of Anna Suzuki, Angel Yau, and Iliana Inocencio, and they are wonderful actors and comedians. We started about five years ago, and we were some of the only other Asian women we knew in comedy. We were really sick about how homogenous everything was and wanted to say, “Fuck it, let’s write a show.” The K-Pop parody aspect of it was Anna Suzuki’s brainchild, and it ended up being a really fun vehicle for us to talk about the realities of being an Asian-American woman, but in a really silly way. Again, when I was coming up, comedy was NOT DIVERSE. Things have really changed in a positive way. I think we have a long way to go, but I am truly happy to see more inclusion.

Pride Month is so amazing, but it can feel so performative (from the straight contingent). This is how I imagine every person I hate acting during Pride Month. It’s as if Wells Fargo were a person.

You won first place in the NBC/UCB Characters Showcase. How was that experience? Do you think showcases, contests, and fellowships like that are still relevant or important today?
Yes! It was amazing! It definitely changed my life and kick-started my career. Did I get a job from it? No … But I did get an agent, which is great! It’s a nice thing to put on your résumé, and it helped me feel worthy of taking up space. It also gave me the confidence to create more and judge myself less. I tend to be really hard on myself, so it’s difficult for me to put stuff out there because I’m scared I’ll fail and look like a fool, even though you have to fail and look like a fool if you want to be successful. I think showcases are relevant in helping you get representation and for résumé building, but I don’t think they are necessary for success.

Ugh, Gwyneth. She’s the WORST. I did this one after she claimed that some rando lady working at a yoga studio “has a job” because Gwyneth started doing yoga … like 2,000 years of Indian history never happened. Also I love hate-reading Goop recipes. They aren’t that bad (in reality), but I feel like you shouldn’t be getting Indian food recipes from Goop. Keep with the crystal vagina eggs and stay in your lane, Goop!

The dichotomy between stand-up comedy and professional dentistry is … a thick one, to say the least. Do you get comedy inspiration from your dentist job? Do you get dental inspiration from your comedy?
Ha, it’s a thicc dichotomy! I honestly like to keep the worlds separate. Although I have some crazy stories. My patients don’t really wanna hear that their dentist has a sketch show she has to run to after their root canal, just like my audiences probably don’t want to hear about root canals. My parents are immigrants from India, and were pretty strict when it came to school. They weren’t really down with me figuring it out as an artist. I decided to become a dentist because I always knew I wanted to pursue a creative career, and as a dentist you can work part-time, which gives me time to audition and write. It is very weird and an oddly perfect day job. I work part-time, I can get shifts covered if I book something … and I genuinely do like it.

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Maya Deshmukh Is a Prop Queen