Parents can be funny people but Daniel Nainan’s folks could start a laugh riot by themselves. His father is a Malayalee who migrated to the US after — he would like people to believe — a childhood in south India that could shame Indiana Jones. “My father would say that he had to walk seven miles to school, both ways uphill. In the snow. In Kerala,” says Nainan, one of America’s best-known stand-up comics. His mother, on the other hand, “is so Japanese that when I was born, I came out cordless”. Tipplers and other audience members will get to hear more at the bar of the Trident Gurgaon this evening when Nainan takes the stage as part of an India tour, which included performing for industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and tennis greats Steffi Graf and Vijay Amritraj in Mumbai.
“Being Indo-Japanese is the basis for my humour. The material writes itself and my parents have given me so many jokes but not on purpose, by accident,” he says. Nainan’s gag pack includes jokes on himself and on American and Asian people but he is strictly a “100 per cent clean comedian”. “I like (Canadian comedian) Russell Peters a lot. He helped me get my start. I toured with him for a year and I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for him. But, I don’t do his kind of dirty material, I do clean material,” he says. Nainan’s funny is more in line with (American comedian) Jerry Seinfield’s. “He’s very clean. He doesn’t talk to the audience, he is very focused and serious. He gets up early, he doesn’t drink and I identify with that,” says Nainan, 33.
It was at his high school in Maryland, USA, that Nainan decided against smoking, smoking up or drinking. “I believe that the body is a temple so don’t destroy yourself. I was very much an outcast in school, no partying, staying at home. I was more of a nerd,”
he says. Despite 900 shows in more than 20 countries in different time zones, Nainan has never felt stressed enough to try the bottle. Instead, he preps by studying the audience and deciding on the right jokes. “What’s the benefit of not drinking?” he asks and sharply comes the answer, “I have never woken up next to anybody unattractive, though a number of women have.”
True to his double Asian roots, Nainan became an engineer and landed a job with Intel where he was required to travel the world with senior executives. “The technical demonstrations were easy but, as far as speaking on stage was concerned, I had this fear. So, I took a comedy class because, I thought that if I could do comedy, it would be much easier to do the demonstrations in front of people. I recommend that if anybody wants to do comedy or speak in public, take a class,” he says.
Today, Nainan is a full-time comedian and his signature style of clean jokes and shows driven by anecdotes and visuals has established him in America’s competitive stand-up scene. Among his memorable shows was for US President Barack Obama, a man whom he often imitates on stage. “I didn’t imitate him when I performed for him. I have a rule, if someone is guest of honour, never make fun of that person,” he says.
For all his mildness, Nainan has battled his share of controversy. A school in the US objected to his racial stereotypes and, a year ago, he was accused of punching a journalist. While the performer won’t comment on the latter, he says about the accusation of stereotyping: “I think mine is very tame compared to what you hear in clubs and on Comedy Central.”
Laughter Riot with Dan Nainan will be held at Trident Gurgaon today at 7 pm. By invitation only. For reservations contact: 9873798874