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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

‘Religion is one thing people are reluctant to talk about’

Comic Vir Das on his latest Netflix show, self-censoring and getting funnier with age.

Written by Radhika Singh | Updated: April 27, 2017 12:00:34 am
comic vir das, latest netflix show, self-censoring, indian comedy club, indira gandhi stadium, american indian humour, narendra modi, donald trump, politics, nationalism, patriotism, racism, non-violence, homophobia, entertainment others, indian express news Comic Vir Das’ Netflix show will juxtapose Narendra Modi with Donald Trump, Indian food with American cereal, non-violence with gun control. (Representational Image)

Does your new Netflix show has a specific theme?
The show is called Abroad Understanding, because I like puns. It’s a broad understanding of what it means to be Indian, but also a broad understanding of myself. Half of it is shot in New York, where I performed at a comedy club in front of a 150 people, and the rest in Indira Gandhi Stadium, Delhi, in front of a crowd of 12,000.
I want to say that funny is funny across the world. I want to make the point that I’m as valid a comedian internationally as I am in India. Yet, it’s an apologetically Indian special. The first two minutes of the special talk about me having an Indian accent. Having an Indian accent has always been the punchline and never the perspective — until now.

What’s the difference between American and Indian humour? How do you bridge that?
The American crowd is a little more knowledgeable as far as stand-up protocol goes, but the Indian crowd is a lot more receptive in terms of laughter. Ultimately, it’s more about feeling the mood of the room rather than where your audience is from.

Why do you think Netflix wanted you?
There’s a really groovy vacancy on the world circuit for an authentic Indian comedy voice — not a Canadian-Indian voice or an American-Indian one. Netflix saw it in the same way.
The show will juxtapose Narendra Modi with Donald Trump, Indian food with American cereal, non-violence with gun control. I do talk politics — nationalism, patriotism, racism and homophobia. I also bring in a lot of personal stories — a car accident, for instance. I like that mix of making you uncomfortable and then bringing you back with something that’s very personal.

Do you ever find yourself self-censoring out of fear of a backlash?
I’ve never censored myself because I trust myself. I consider myself a very patriotic, reasonably intelligent
person. Anything I write will come from that moral compass. If you start worrying about backlash, you
could never write anything creative or courageous.

What are the subjects comedians are reluctant to talk about?
Religion is one thing that people are reluctant to talk about — it’s the first 10 minutes of my special. I talk about every religion, not just one, so I’m fair in my offence.

How have you evolved as
a comedian?
When you start out as a comedian, you’re writing stuff you think people will like. So, you talk about Bollywood or cricket, or your Gujarati uncle. That’s probably not actually what you care about. Once you mature, you start talking about stuff that interests and scares you. Your capacity for bullshit and your desire to have everyone like you reduces the older you get. I’m sure I’ll be funnier the older I get.

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