Stand-up comedian Vir Das believes in busting boundaries
A Bachelor's in Economics and Theatre at Knox College, Illinois. Method acting at Harvard University, Massachusetts. Performances with the Moscow Arts Theatre. Dog walking in Chicago.
Well, not just dog walking, to be honest. “I was a broke waiter and dog walker,” says comedian Vir Das in a phone interview to promote his latest act, ‘Walking on broken Das.' Not an actor-in-waiting? “Nah. That was my job. Just waiting tables. I also worked as a bartender. And I handed out flyers on the street. I was just trying to get by.”
That's how he ended up on a stage, telling jokes to an admittedly unimpressed audience. “I started hitting up the amateur nights. I was booed off stage 14 – 15 nights in a row. My big mistake was I was to hard trying to be funny,” he says. “I remember, I had to ends meet, pay my rent, girls weren't talking to me… I was really pissed off.” He finally exploded — on stage. “I yelled at the audience.” His tirade was about how vital Indians were to America, as everything from restaurateurs to doctors. “I ended by saying, without Indians you'd be starving and sexless. There was a tense – and long – silence. Then people began to laugh.”
Since then Das has exulted in busting boundaries. “I'm an angry comedian,” he chuckles. “That's my peg.” It seems to work. So far, ‘Walking On Broken Das' is the largest selling comedy show in India. After its Mumbai debut, it opened in Chennai and then travels around the country including Delhi this past week before going to the Middle East and America.
Styles of comedy
The production incorporates different styles of comedy as well as music, courtesy Das' band Alien Chutney. Also, expect some scandalous digs. “There are no holy cows,” he states, “Of course people have called me offensive, edgy, immature… But none's called me unintelligent. So that's my bar.”
Various blogs have also hailed him “one of the sexiest men out there,” painting an image of audiences crammed with gasping women. “Not at all,” he laughs. “I wish! You have to realise that every comedian is a failed rock star.” His audience, in fact, often consists of the old and the distinguished. Not that they get – or expect - tamer material. “I did a show for the Rotary. The audience was mainly 50 year old doctors, and that ended up being my filthiest show. It's not about age groups – it's more about rooms. The energy in every room is different.”SHONALI MUTHALALY