“It’s been a good year,” says comedian Vir Das about 2017. And for once, he isn’t joking. From being the first Indian comic to bag a Netflix special ( Abroad Understanding ) to a world tour that took him to 33 countries on six continents, he has had a memorable year.
Exploring new audiences
And now, in 2018, he brings his new show, Boarding Das , a two-hour-long special, to Chennai. “It’s brand new content that has been tried, tested and tweaked before being served to the Indian audience,” says the comic, speaking on the phone from Indore, where the show has sold out at around 1000 seats. “I’ve never performed in these cities — Vapi, Surat, Vadodara, Patna… But we’re adding a whole new tier of places, and the response has been amazing,” he adds. As for Chennai, Das says with a laugh, “They are an intelligent, liberal and progressive audience, who know how to enjoy a show. And it can be surprising just how naughty some of them can get.”
On the cards
While the permeation of the World Wide Web has led to his increased popularity in India beyond the metros, Das sees a marked difference in his audience abroad as well. He explains, “Earlier, the audience would be 90 to 95% from the Indian diaspora. Post the Netflix special, it’s almost an equal number of foreign and Indian folk. It’s quite refreshing to play to a mixed group.”
He is also busy working on a sitcom for Hulu, based on his original idea. Then there’s an Amazon Prime Video Unscripted Original titled Jestination Unknown , but he says, “I can’t tell you anything about that project yet!” In Bollywood, he’s working on an Austin Powers-type spoof and a mainstream action comedy .
Late night laughs
One of the biggest moments last year was when Das presented ‘News from the Rest of the World’ on Conan O’Brien’s late night show. “I’ve idolised Conan for many years. I realised was that everything on late night TV was centered around the US. As these are the same shows seen around the world, it just made sense that we brought in what’s happening in other countries,” says Das. While it will not be a regular/weekly affair — “I’d have to move to LA for that, and I don’t want to do that” — it will happen occasionally.
Das admits that while people now consider him an ambassador of Indian comedy to the West, work continues to happen beyond just him. “Aziz Ansari won a Golden Globe for Master of None . Riz Ahmed won an Emmy. Entertainers with origins from the subcontinent have been making a mark, and it was happening long before I was fortunate enough to be a part of it,” he concludes.
At Phoenix MarketCity tomorrow at 7 pm. Tickets from ₹1,000 to ₹1,500 on in.bookmyshow.com.