The comedian spoke to us ahead of the premiere of his Netflix comedy special original, Abroad Understanding, on Tuesday
He’s unquestionably funny, so much so that people sometimes tend to believe that he’s too funny for India. To Vir Das’ credit though, his brand of comedy has earned him Abroad Understanding – a comedy special original with Netflix, making him the first Indian to produce content for the entertainment company globally.
He joins the ranks of Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin hart and Russel Petters with this special that will be aired across 100-plus countries. In addition, he has also been signed on by one of the biggest comedy management firms in the world. Ahead of the show’s premiere on Tuesday, we spoke to the multi-faceted artist in his typically amusing avatar.
Talk about the show.
So the show is a Netflix special like a typical comedian show – like Kevin Heart, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle etc. It’s shot in two countries, from 11,000-12,000 people in New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Stadium to 200 Americans in a New York basement, who have no clue who I am. It’s me in my hometown where I started my career to the place where I’m beginning a new career. It talks about the differences between Indian and America; it’s also very personal since I’m making fun of myself to a good measure. It also talks about different religions, homophobia, racism, the rise of patriotism/nationalism in India, gun control in America; it’s a bunch of stuff honestly!
The show will be streaming in over 100 countries. How do you live up to that?
I took a decision two years ago. I felt ready trying to crack the international presence and establish a presence in the world comedy scene. And that began a journey which led to this. Having said that, I’m just starting a journey. I’m here with my idols in this lineup; people who have been in the industry for more than twice my experience. It’s hard for me to say how people will respond but all I’ll say is that I’m just getting started.
You want to get ‘authentic Indian comedy’ reach out to the masses. What do you refer to by this brand of humour?
I just want it to be Indian in the sense that it has always been a punch line and not a perspective abroad; for instance, something like an Appu from The Simpsons. Having an Indian voice or an Indian actor for illicit comedic perspective is what I’m aiming to transit beyond. So the opening of my show is me walking out saying this is how I talk; I’m not impersonating some funny relative. ‘This is a real show and we’re going to talk about real things tonight!’
How challenging is it for such comedy to thrive in times of increasing intolerance?
I don’t think it’s that challenging. I don’t think the trolls realise that for every one mean thing they say to me, there are 200 more people who will appreciate that you’re going through something. So you’re actually increasing my fan base man. You’re not pulling me down, you’re pushing me up.
Do you expect controversy with the type of punches in Abroad Understanding?
I consider myself a minimally intelligent but an extremely patriotic person. I’m proud enough of my country to parody it. If there are consequences and people get upset about it, I’ll have to write jokes about that too. The solution is to just write jokes.
From standup and theatre to films and music, you’ve done so much. What do you enjoy doing the most?
I really like music. I like to be on the stage with my band. You know I’m the most expensive comedians in the country right now. So when people have paid Rs 5,000-10,000 for your show, the pressure to deliver is higher. Even if you’re a part of a film, there are crores of Rupees riding on it. But I feel that when the tickets for your band cost under Rs 500, you can be a little bit of a jackass and muck around.
What lies ahead?
I’m on a world tour right now. We’re doing 26 countries in six continents. I’m starting a movie in June, which we’ll be shooting through July. It’s in the very cool back-to-the-Delhi-Belly-Go-Goa-Gone kind of a zone. I’ve got a release coming up, which is my first family comedy. It’s Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal and myself in the same movie, so that should be fun!