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Mehr Juneja is bringing new representation to the world of standup comedy

Mehr Juneja pictured performing her standup comedy show “Imposter Syndrome.” The production seeks to give a platform to underrepresented voices. (Courtesy of Mehr Juneja)

By Maya Rego

May 29, 2024 1:53 p.m.

Through labor and laughter, Mehr Juneja is redefining representation in comedy.

Recent alumnus Juneja is a self-made comedian and the producer and co-founder of the Los Angeles based comedy show “Imposter Syndrome.” Juneja said “Imposter Syndrome” seeks to highlight historically underrepresented voices and those whose identities are often used as targets in comedic spaces.

“There’s so much space for bad male white comedy, with a few that are amazing,” Juneja said. “I made ‘Imposter Syndrome’ into more of any sort of comedy, more of any marginalized group you are in, this is a safe space for you.”

[Related: Q&A: ‘Multiple Talking Women’ hosts discuss origins of podcast, importance of improv]

Comedy has been an integral part of Juneja’s life since her childhood, she said. Growing up, her family would often sit around the television and watch sitcoms together, she added, and her sister has acted as a role model in the comedic space, being a comedy writer herself. However, as a child, Juneja said she felt excluded by the lack of comedic presences on television she could identify with, the majority being straight white men. Her career has thus been motivated by the lack of representation she witnessed growing up.

Her first open mic with Shenanigans Comedy Club at UCLA, left her feeling intimidated, as the performers were older than her and mostly white and male, she said. Yet the show was a great success, Juneja added, and she continued to pursue her passion for comedy from there.

“(After that first event) I was like, ‘Okay, I get it, I’ve got the bug,’” Juneja said. “It was very intimidating … Everyone seemed like they knew more than me, but I have to keep going because I love comedy and I don’t think I’ll be able to stop.”

Since then, Juneja has extensively developed her standup routine, which she said features discussions of laughable moments in her personal life while refraining from tokenizing herself or her identity. Fellow alumnus Kelsey Chan, Juneja’s executive and creative assistant, described Juneja’s standup as charismatic and honest, not shying away from harsh or odd situations. Following graduation, Juneja said she reconstructed “Imposter Syndrome” to turn the show into a widespread phenomenon within the LA comedy scene. She began to expand her team and eventually hired Chan, who said her work with “Imposter Syndrome” began long before she received her official title, serving as Juneja’s sounding board and scheduler.

[Related: Alumni-created sketch comedy group Grumpy Baby Chunky Wheels rises in popularity]

Furthermore, Juneja said the connections she made during college have thus far been imperative in expanding “Imposter Syndrome.” Alumnus Magenta Rose Brown said she first met Juneja in Shenanigans, where Brown was the head of improv while Juneja held a dual-position role as the head of both events and standup. After moving blocks apart from each other post-graduation, Brown said Juneja helped her as she delved further into the standup scene, a world Juneja held more expertise in. Since then, Brown said she has been a frequent performer with “Imposter Syndrome” and will be showcasing her work at the next upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival.

“(At Fringe) there are all these different shows and all these different artists, all people you get to connect with,” Brown said. “There’s an abundance of opportunity here, which I just feel so lucky to have.”

Looking towards the future, Juneja said she hopes to grow “Imposter Syndrome” into an international brand, becoming a place for minority comics to network on a national scale. Currently, she plans to apply to the New York Comedy Festival, and eventually wants to take “Imposter Syndrome” to Edinburgh Fringe, a premiere comedy event. She is currently finalizing plans to take her own material on tour at the end of the year, while constantly thinking about ways to book more talent and provide a larger space for people to connect, she added.

“You want to quit sometimes,” Juneja said. “But I’m not going to because number one, I can’t not do comedy, but number two, if I don’t do it, then who will?”

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Maya Rego
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