Vir Das shows the world that Indian comedy is more than just head-shaking jokes and funny accents
When you think of an Indian comic, it's no doubt that a certain Russell Peters comes to mind. With his observational comedy revolving around his childhood and immigrant parents, he makes fun of this globalised society we live in, crafting punch lines at the expense of foreign accents and eccentricities. Other notable Indian comics take a different route. The American-born Aziz Ansari hardly uses his ethnicity in his material, while fellow American Hasan Minhaj recently went political as he roasted Donald Trump and his administration at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Across that pond, you also have other first or second-generation South Asian Brit and Aussie comics having a laugh: Romesh Ranganathan in his observations on marriage, family and British politics; and Fear of a Brown Planet duo Nazeem Hussain and Aamer Rahman on their political and social agendas.
Vir Das is a recent exception that's come to light, thanks to Netflix. Born in India out of a family of diplomats, the 37-year-old was raised in Africa and moved to America for college. With his comedic streak simmering slowly in comedy troupes in America, he wrote his first show, Brown Men Can't Hump, and continued dabbling in Bollywood flicks, even appearing in an adult comedy, Mastizaade. When clips of his routine on Conan made its rounds on social media, Das' surge in popularity was timed perfectly well with Abroad Understanding, his one-hour special on Netflix which premiered the same day.
It's a format that's unique. Writing the show for two audiences — one in a stadium in New Delhi with almost 11,000 people and one in a basement in New York City — impressed us, notably in how seamlessly he frames and makes subtle differences to references. As a Singapore audience, you'd connect with some of his East-meets-West material, laughing at Trump jokes all the same. Das is a refreshing addition to Netflix's current line-up of stand-up comedy specials, proving that there is space for diversity in humour.