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Indian Men: No Laughing Matter

Indian Men: No Laughing Matter

August 14, 2010

Are Asian men funny? Well they’re comical, that’s for sure!

Is it just me or are Asian men just not that funny? Maybe it my age or the social circles I mix in. Or perhaps the fact I grew up watching genius stand up American comedians like Jackie Mason, Richard Pryor and home grown talents, such as Dave Allen, Mike Yarwood and Billy Connolly that I expect a guy to be funny. That my father loves to tell a joke or two probably added to my fascination for comedy early on.

But why is it that so many of my single female friends, like me, complain that we rarely meet Asian men who can make us laugh? Sure they can dish out the odd wise crack or juvenile joke, but sadly ‘blokey’ gags about dizzy blondes, masturbation, porn, Star Wars and Sardar-jis tend to be as far as their repertoire goes. I won’t even begin to list the number of times I’ve been subjected to racist Indo-Pak comedy that is rife amongst Hindu, Sikh and Muslim men.

If only they had the spontaneity of a Robin Williams, the dry wit of Billy Crystal, the satire skills of Bill Hicks or the intellectual mockery of Stephen Fry. Sigh. Why even the whimsical ramblings of Eddie Izzard would do. Anything but the annoying puns of Johnny Lever and lame Bollywood slapstick courtesy of Akshay Kumar.

It’s a well known fact that a funny man can laugh a woman into bed. By laugh I don’t mean a little giggle, cackle, snigger, chuckle or titter. I mean laugh out loud, hysterical, knicker wettingly funny. Could it be that Asian mothers have beaten the sense of humour out of their sons in order to safe guard their easily corrupted natures?

So imagine my delight when browsing through a copy of this year’s brochure for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that I noticed not one, or two, but a small handful of brown faces pop up in the comedy section. You mean there actually are some funny Asian men out there who do funny for a living? Where can I get myself one of those?

OK, so a handful of desi comedians aren’t that big a deal when you consider the fact that the Edinburgh Fringe is the world's largest arts festival with over 32,000 performances and more than 2,000 shows across the city, of which 859 are comedy acts. But it’s a start!

Taking Sanjeev Bhaskar and Hardeep Singh Kohli out of the equation (simply because their Hounslow and Glasgow based gags have died a slow death), let’s see who dares tickle our funny bone.

First up there’s Paul Sinha, a 40 years old GP turned comedian described as a ‘lovelorn gay bachelor’ whose act this year centres on how a racist called him racist. Hmm…sounds like he has potential. Then there’s loud mouth Paul Chowdhry, whose crass routine usually involves shouting down the phone line in a heavy Indian accent and doing badly dubbed Kung Fu movie impressions. This year he promises to delight Edinburgh audiences by sharing his ‘acute observations on weighty subjects about how the word 'irony' has replaced the word 'offensive' and become the new 'PC' way of behaving distastefully, all in an 'ironic' way!’ OK then. Let’s take a look.

Stand-up chameleon Anil Desai returns for his second solo show ‘Hey, Impressions Guy!’ Described by various media as “A tour de force of impressions...side-splittingly funny...ridiculously talented..”, this mimic certainly offers a barrel of laughs. Worth checking out.

Finally there’s top Indian comic Vir Das. Billed as ‘'The funniest kid in India', his amusingly titled show, ‘Bloody Dastard – The Angry Indian Cometh’, the radical promises to have us rolling in the aisles. Can’t wait! No really I can’t. It’s actually this Asian comedian who is the most interesting of the bunch at Edinburgh this year.

A new breed of comic who represents the confident, globalized Indian, Das is the future of Asian comedy. Getting away from the lazy stereotypes that British Asian comics often over rely on, Das is one of many young Indian writer/actor/comedians whose act tenders commentary on one of the world’s most powerful nations, economies and cultural forces. His source material far outstrips that of his NRI brothers.

Having said that, I recently came across a bunch of Indo-American comedians who have something interesting to say about themselves and their adopted mother land. Top of that list is Delhi born and New York based Vidur Kapur, an out and proud gay stand up comic whose razor sharp bitchy put downs and socio-political observations are enormously fun. Add to that list IT geeky Rajiv Satyal and alpha male Mark Saldana, and of course everyone’s favourite Canadian Russell Peters, and you have the tip of a North Amercian-East Indian comedy iceberg.

With all this rising comedy talent my gal pals and I may need to reconsider our views. Maybe some Asian men can be funny when they put their Eddie Murphy and Benny Hill impression aside. We just can’t just expect all of them to be. Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year between 6 and 30 August 2010.

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  • By
    21.11.15 05:08 AM
  • Paul Singh
    Paul Singh
    07.06.13 08:18 PM
    I am funny and half Indian. No need of Indo-Pak jokes. Where have you been?
  • Rajendra Raikwar
    Rajendra Raikwar
    21.11.11 01:43 PM
    great efforts
  • A Singh
    A Singh
    21.08.10 04:52 PM
    Arj Barker, like the two Pauls, was being touted ten years ago when I saw him perform in London. Admittedly he was funny.

    One guy I particularly like, who does not rely on Indian culture for material, as Aziz Ansari.

    Will check out Papa CJ on Youtube
  • Charlie
    20.08.10 06:38 PM
    Very interesting - the two Pauls have been flag-bearers for some time now. I'm up at Edinburgh at the moment and Arj Barker seems to be making lots of waves (at least his posters are everywhere) and he's good in Flight of the Conchords.

    I'd recommend checking out Papa CJ too - he is an Indian comic from India itself, and he is definitely going to go on to big things!
  • Sally Carter
    Sally Carter
    16.08.10 09:28 PM
    Paul Sinha is currently performing at The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh, Scotland. 10.40pm daily to 29th August. He is an openly gay stand-up comedian who is as far from a head-waggling corner shop owning comedy stereotype of a Britain based Asian as you can imagine. A qualified doctor, he is an intelligent comic with a fine line in well crafted jokes and acute socio-political observation. His current press is as follows - 5 stars - ScotsGay & Fresh Air Radio, 4 stars - Fest, Chortle, Hairline & Broadway Baby. Scotland based monthly arts magazine 'The Skinny' have him in their top 10 recommendations for comedy at the Festival, while Edinburgh is have him in their top 50. Click the link to buy tix
  • keerthana
    15.08.10 05:36 PM
    Many Indian guys are funny, its just that half of them don't even dare to think bout it as a career option
  • Nona Dinamoni
    Nona Dinamoni
    14.08.10 09:26 AM
    Except Vir Das and Russell Peters, I haven't heard the other names. I have seen Rusell Peters perform! But it was mostly on the Asian and Indian stereotypes. They may be funny! But they still need to go long way before they can talk like Robin Williams or Bill Maher.

    The standup act was not popular in India. Of late, it is getting popular. But still, this industry has to mature. After that, you might see a lot of funny Asian men. :)

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