Three stand-up comedians speak of how to bond over hearty laughter and solve issues

Stand-up comedians Rajiv Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu were in the city for ‘Make chai, not war', a stand-up comedy show involving the three.

As part of their stand-up act, the three will in part, talk about religious tolerance, breaking down prejudices and their experiences of growing up as an Indian-American in the United States.

The three are touring seven cities in India from January 4-17, performing and holding events on invitation by the U.S. Department of State, including the discussions with audience and conducting workshops.

After winding their tour to Bangalore and Chennai where Hari, of south Indian origin, requests the south Indians to be proud of their complexion and get rid of their fairness creams as soon as possible. Hari is a human rights activist who studied human rights at the London School of Economics. But he doesn't use the platform for activism, he says. “My point of view is honest and that is what is most appreciated.” For Hari, as for the other two, stand-up comedy was a chance revelation which eventually became his profession.

The unique manner in which the three comedians use comedy brings together audiences from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. What also binds them together is their strong Indian roots and comedy centred around racial comments. Hari, who feels privileged to have performed in front of Bill Gates says, “I love the idea of controlling the minds of the audience. It is almost like controlling their thoughts.” Azhar and Rajiv agree with him..

They love narrating the incident of how they met. Rajiv takes the lead, “Me and Azhar met at a Russels Peters show back in 2005 and bonded instantly.”

Rajiv's witty and TV-clean act covers everything from racial issues to soap bottles to his favourite topic – himself. Boredom with his job and proving his knack for comedy in front of tennis player Pete Sampras made him believe in his ability to do stand up comedy.

Azhar Usman who has performed in a private function for General Parvez Musharraf is one of America's top Muslim stand-up comedians.

As co-founder of the internationally acclaimed “Allah Made Me Funny – The Official Muslim Comedy Tour,” he has performed in more than a dozen countries on five continents. Azhar is also the creator and star of his own Web show, Tinku's World.

Though Azhar was the funny man throughout his school, he didn't know he could be a stand-up comedian. “It was a serious thing and I didn't know if I could be prove himself. “But after 9/11, things changed. People would call me to make them laugh and also offered to pay. I started as a sketch comedy artiste initially, but I knew the seriousness of the jokes involved in stand-up comedy,” says Azhar.

Keywords: stand-up comedy

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012

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