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.
For more info visit www.edfringe.com