Vir Das says anything works in a stand-up routine so long as it's truthful
They couldn't stop laughing. The “Delhi Belly” star and popular stand-up comic Vir Das comes up with jokes considered too raunchy to print. And, he can make fun of pretty much anything, including the writers at the Lit for Life fest organised by The Hindu at the Hyatt Regency during the weekend.
“I get paid,” as he noted the difference between someone such as him who writes jokes for a living and writers.
Toning down? Nay!
Does he even consider toning it down a notch when he's performing in Chennai that is perceived by most outsiders as conservative? “Actually, no. You know, Chennai is an audience that surprises you. You just have to warm them up. And, Chennai stays with me as much as any other city. I have a policy of not toning it down for anything.”
Vir Das says he's always been about the edgy adult content in the six years he's been performing. “Seldom have I had complaints. You have to stay intelligent even if you're talking about sex or adult content — like when I talk of sex education, I say ‘my generation did not create a billion people', and say it truthfully. I like to make sure that at least 80 per cent of the audience agrees with me at any given point.”
How important is adult content in a stand-up routine given that it's early days for comedy shows in India? “No, I don't think it is needed. But my humour is inherently edgy and angry. So, to ask me to not to do that would be asking me to be a different comic. The only thing you have as a comic is your hook..”
Maybe the times are changing if “Delhi Belly” is any indication. “Ummm… We never really thought of it that way. That ‘Delhi Belly' will be some sort of a game-changer. We just saw it as a mad script. We never saw it as a cult or game-changing script. So, I am just in the bubble to know the impact it has had outside. But yes, it has made my audience certain times larger.”
Vir Das writes a new show every six to eight months. And then, there are jokes he writes on a day-to-day basis to make his shows more relevant. “I read the paper. And, I keep track if Advani is on tour, if Anna Hazare's movement is taking a right turn or a left turn, if the Metallica concert is cancelled….”
How does his own family respond to his career? “I had this moment with them five years ago when I had come back and squandered all their money for an Economics degree, and then a theatre degree without telling them and got my first standing ovation from 500 people. They happened to be in the audience at that time. That, I think, was the changer. They said ‘Ok, he's serious about it. It's fine'.”
He and Kunal Khemu are shooting for Raj Nidimoru and Krish DK's “Go Goa Gone”, the zombie comedy. “It's a lovely film, mad and mental. My next release is Tanuja Chandra's ‘Raakh'. It's a serious Bhopali rural role. Post ‘Delhi Belly', I was really looking to take a left, and had decided that if I have to come back to comedy, I have do something that's really lateral and out there.”
Vir has signed four films since “Delhi Belly”. “I have a degree in theatre and drama, and spent the four years in my training doing Shakespeare and Chekhov… very little comedy whatsoever. I think it was almost rebellion towards that that drove me to stand-up. Now it's like getting back together with an ex-girlfriend. I hadn't acted in five years. When I watched ‘Rang De Basanti', that was the first time I sat back and said: ‘Ok, now movies are the kind I want to be in. Now I will actually give this a serious shot'.”
Keywords: Stand-up comedy