VIR DAS TALKS ABOUT COMEDY AND HIS EDGY NEW STAND-UP SHOW
by ASJAD NAZIR
ONE of the big breakout live international comedy stars of recent years has been Vir Das.
The talented actor is now widely hailed as the king of stand-up comedy in India and has the statistics to back that up.
Having performed in 32 cities across the world, including sold-out shows in North America, Australia and Europe, he is the highest grossing English language comedian to emerge out of India.
He has also delivered acclaimed Netflix specials and is looking forward to bringing his latest show Loved to UK next month, which attempts to explore what it truly takes to love in a world of friends, partners, parents, God, fellow man and iPhones.
Eastern Eye caught up with Vir Das ahead of his London show to discuss Loved, the meaning of love, comedy and why the UK is so special to him.
What connected you to comedy?
I was in a debate while in class four, and there was an interjection round. There was a class 12 senior who was my prefect in the class, and I went up to them and asked a stupid question that made the entire school laugh. It was at that moment that I realised the power of a microphone – he had authority over me until we were on stage and I had a microphone in my hand, and people were laughing. When that mic was in my hand and people were laughing, that was the most democratic set up in the world.
What was your first live gig like?
The first time I did stand-up was performing 90 minutes in front of my friends. It was a show called Brown Men Can’t Hump – don’t judge me for the title! It was a play on the movie White Men Can’t Jump, which was out around that time. It was so terrible! The show was just me telling inside jokes and stories about my friends. It kind of made me think I was good at it, and then I went to Chicago and began open micing and realised I didn’t have even 30 seconds of material. So, my first gig was pretty liberating to go up with a lot of time, but followed quickly by an extreme reality check.
You have had an amazing rise in recent years. Have you had a chance to enjoy the success and take it all in?
I don’t think of myself as successful yet. I don’t look behind and just look ahead. To me success is the amount of time that passes between you having an idea and being able to execute that idea. I’ve had 10 ideas in my head every single morning since I was 20 years old, and not enough people to listen to those ideas. So maybe once I have 10 people to listen to 10 ideas through the day, and think they’re good, then I’ll be successful. Right now, I’m just trying to get as good as I can at this art form. There is nothing more exciting and exhilarating than being at a lower rung of the ladder, knowing that there’s still so much space to go up.
How have you evolved as a stand-up comedian?
I don’t know! I mean, that’s something the audience usually tells you. I think if you get stuck thinking about that too much, you can start second-guessing yourself and writing with a goal in mind other than being funny. I’m just trying to be funny and hopefully, I’m getting funnier. I do feel more like myself on stage than ever before, which means if you like who I am, that’s good news. If not, I imagine that’s not great.
How much are you looking forward to your London show?
There’s nothing that I look forward to more than a UK show. You have the greatest crowds, you drink cider at the end of the gig and you can get a nice pie from the pub. I love that whole thing. The UK is often where I’m happiest in the world.
What can we expect from you this time around?
The show is about love, but strangely enough the most personal and edgy material I’ve written. It’s about love for your country, your government, your fellow man, your spouse, your pet, your family and really question if you’re good or bad at that love. I think it is a fair question for a comedian to ask themselves, and hopefully, you’ll leave the show asking some of those questions too.
Why did you title the show Loved?
Because I feel loved, but I don’t know if I’m particularly loving – that’s the journey of the show. Can someone who is loved assess how loving they are?
How much of the material is based on personal experiences?
Pretty much 100 per cent. It starts with personal experiences but builds to something broad everybody can relate to. You go from my view on the government to the government in general; from my view on my relationship to your relationship.
What do you really love in life?
My wife. My bulldog. His name is Doctor Watson. I love music too. These I genuinely love. I took the decision a few years ago that I wasn’t going to spend money on ‘things’ anymore, so I was going to spend it on my family, travel, music and experiences.
What don’t you love?
Censorship, silence and papaya! I don’t see any good reason for papaya to exist.
Are you always on the look-out for material in everyday life?
No. I’m juggling movies, a series and acting and comedy. My comedy brain tends to switch off a little when I’m working on an acting project. It’s a good vacation as I come back refreshed, even if it’s not intentional.
Who is the funniest person you know?
The funniest person I know is my bulldog Doctor Watson, even though he’s not a person. He’s caustic and dry, even more so than me. If I had to pick a human being, then I’d say the people I work with at my production company. I have a bunch of young people who are talented and work incredibly hard, and they’re filled with salt. I quite like how salty this new generation is.
Has being funny helped you in your life?
Absolutely not! It does not help you with your wife, the police or politicians. It definitely does not help you on social media. I’m not in the kitchen telling jokes to people and just doing the dishes.
What about with the ladies?
Put it this way, I’ve never laughed a woman into bed and thankfully, I’ve never laughed one out of bed.
You are fast becoming a comedy hero, but who is your comedy hero?
There are so many. George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Johnny Lever, Gene Wilder and Steve Carrell to name a few.
What is your master plan?
You’re really giving me a lot more credit than I deserve. There is no plan! I’m just jumping from piece to piece of the broken iceberg right now and I know that it’s a matter of time before the whole thing is flooded.
Today what inspires you?
Music really inspires me. I try and listen to one piece of new music each day. It inspires me and gives me ideas.
Why should we come see you live?
Because if you don’t, I will hunt you down! I have a very special set of skills and you will suffer. Also, I’m really funny, and the show’s about love and you should come and see it.
Vir Das: Loved is on at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London on December 4.
Visit www.academymusicgroup.com & www.virdas.in