Seriously funny

Vir Das is the first India-born comedian to have a special on streaming service Netflix.
Vir Das is the first India-born comedian to have a special on streaming service Netflix.PHOTO: THE COMEDY CLUB ASIA

Stand-up comedian Vir Das draws material from his personal life as well as topics such as politics, race and religion

Is the field getting crowded for Indian stand-up comedians?

These days, some names come to mind: Aziz Ansari (Netflix series Master Of None), Kumail Nanjiani (this year's hit comedy movie The Big Sick), Aparna Nancherla (sketch show Inside Amy Schumer), Hari Kondabolu, and Canadian comedian Russell Peters.

Stand-up comic and actor Vir Das does not think so.

"You have six of us doing stuff, and one of us happens to be from India," says Das, 38, referring to how of that high-visibility group, he is the only one who is not a citizen of, nor based in the United States or Canada.

"And I'm happy with that position," adds the Mumbai-based entertainer, who made show business magazine Variety's 10 Comedians To Watch list this year.

When his stand-up show, Abroad Understanding, went live a few months ago, he also became the first India-born comedian to have a special on streaming service Netflix.

The comic will perform his Boarding Das World Tour stand-up show in Singapore on Nov 25.

I think my life is in a crisis and I'm in the middle of it. So I don't think it's a mid-life crisis. I've had a crisis for about 20 years now.

STAND-UP COMIC VIR DAS, on whether he is having a mid-life crisis

Being one of the few world-touring headliners based in India does not seem to have made any difference to how he tailors his material to an audience.

Das, who last performed here earlier this year, says his new show will have personal material based on "waking up in your 30s and questioning every belief you've ever had in your life".

  • BOOK IT / VIR DAS: BOARDING DAS WORLD TOUR SINGAPORE 2017

  • WHERE: Capitol Theatre, 11 Stamford Road

    WHEN: Nov 25, 8.30pm

    ADMISSION: Tickets from $48 to $128 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

"I woke up and no longer believe in 80 per cent of the things I used to believe. The show's about questioning your relationships with religion, money, love, politics, social media," he says.

Could he be having a mid-life crisis?

"I think my life is in a crisis and I'm in the middle of it. So I don't think it's a mid-life crisis. I've had a crisis for about 20 years now," he quips.

While a lot of his material is personal, some of it covers sensitive topics such as politics, race and religion. He says that over the years, he has developed a keen sense of what will fly and what will not.

"I will try anything once. The beautiful thing about doing stand-up is that the audience will let you know in about five milliseconds if a joke is working for them. And that changes with every gig," he says.

Another line he is not afraid to cross is the niceness line. After he points out the absurdity of some commonly held but destructive idea, Das sometimes follows up with a heartfelt plea for kindness and understanding.

"The audience is going to leave the venue with the memory of who you are, rather than what you said. I'm a positive person, I'm an optimist. I'd like for them to walk out with the right memory of who I am."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'Seriously funny'. Print Edition | Subscribe