A Tale of Two Comedians

Hari Kondabolu, who is kind of a friend of the Mutiny’s, is going to be on Comedy Central Friday night at 10pm eastern (“Live at Gotham”). Here is a snippet that I think is from the show:

Pretty clever, no? (It helps if you are a child of the 80s…)

Compare to Papa CJ, who was eliminated tonight from the NBC show Last Comic Standing, after a truly disastrous performance. I wouldn’t ruin your day with a link to that footage even if it were available, but here is Papa CJ doing somewhat similar material in London, albeit much more effectively:

In London he seems much more confident, though I have to admit I’m still not thrilled with his shtick. Is it just me, or is Papa CJ just not that funny?

That said, one does have to give him credit. It’s one thing to be a brown comic with a funny name, but a familiar American accent and a shared set of cultural reference points with one’s audience (i.e., Hari Kondabolu and Back to the Future above). Papa CJ, born and raised in Kolkata, has to work across a yawning cultural divide when he performs in the U.S. It makes comedy quite difficult (the “bollocks”/ “bullocks” joke, only marginally funny in England, would be suicidal in Los Angeles).

Ironically, due to the colonial legacy, England is probably a bit easier going for an Indian comedian.

78 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Comedians

  1. I think Hari is hilarious; I was actually at that taping and he brought the house down!

    I checked out more of his stuff on youtube and I think Amardeep did him a disservice posting just that short clip to compare him to PapaCJ (much longer clip).

    if I might toot my own horn a little bit here, here’s a recent article about me from the New York Times, along with my best video clip to date, along with one of my radio bits in which I imitate Bill Clinton. Enjoy, and if you want to know more, check out my website, or e-mail me at calrocker@hotmail.com.

    You are funny, man. The audience loves you. By the way, since Russel Peters is anglo-indian and you are japanese-indian, when you two share the stage, as you have done, the audience gets one full indian comic, right? One for the price of two….

  2. In the US outside the charmed circle of classic comedians, the general sense of humour is poorly developed.

    What a a load of pretentious ignorance! Thats your hindutva jealousy showing, jyotsana. America is the world’s undisputed champion in humour: movies, TV shows, standup, cartoons, comic books, satire etc.

  3. 6 · Amitabh said

    I kinda cringed when Papa CJ said to his British audience that “you ruled us for 200 years”…true but he didn’t need to go there! The rest of his routine was OK, funny in parts. I don’t think he should joke so mercilessly at India’s expense though, for example that half our transportation is bullocks or whatever…it feeds or reinforces notions of us as backwards idiots (even though there may be some factual truth in what he’s saying). He should preserve our dignity a little better. The same jokes in front of an Indian audience (ABD or DBD) would be ok. Just my opinion.

    I wonder if lurkers out here were told that Papa CJ (the second comedian) were a Punjabi rather than a Bengali, would that have an impact on people’s perception of him?

    Hari was OK, but he was clearly nervous. He basically told just 1 joke in his 1.5 minutes. Papa CJ was wittier, and funnier. He could improve his work by adding more stuff to it. I love his reference to cross-polination and how the sun never rises in the UK.

  4. Have you guys seen the Danny Bhoy, the Scottish Indian version of Dane Cook? Basically a guy who has some funny jokes, but gets annoying because women usually laugh a little too loud because they think he is cute. http://youtube.com/watch?v=y8VE9LqrpPA

    What do you mean by annoying? This guy is frickin hilarious. I just checked him out for the first time and I must say Danny Bhoy has star potential. There is nothing indian in his schtick though; nor does he look, talk or act indian at all. He is billed as a scottish comic and thats the role he plays. Very vey well indeed!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uOEMJSPE0I&NR=1

  5. My vote goes for the sexy, witty, animated Papa CJ. He’s more in tune with the audience, spontaneous and overall funny. the half breed accent helps his case.

    So Papa CJ is also a half breed? That figures. He sure doesn’t look like a bengali. He should probably make some self-deprecating jokes about his huge hooked nose and skinny physique to pad his repertoire :)

    Part-indian standup comedians seem to be doing much better in their profession than full indians.

  6. Danny Bhoy has star potential

    Dude, Danny Bhoy is one of the biggest comics on the UK/Australasian circuit – his gigs almost always sell out. And yes to my knowledge he hasn’t done any desi related material.

    Part-indian standup comedians seem to be doing much better in their profession than full indians.

    Um, no, it’s probably even. Unless you can show me the numbers (or give me more than 2 names) that prove otherwise. In NZ we’ve got Tarun Mohanbhai, in the UK we have Paul Sinha, Sanjeev Bhaskar started in a comedy duo and in the US, a bunch of comics who made up Indian Invasion.

    Also, hitting the big time is about one part talent, one part hard work and one part sheer luck – gotta have all three.

  7. Also, hitting the big time is about one part talent, one part hard work and one part sheer luck – gotta have all three.

    It’s also about having a unique voice. When the first minority comedians came out (excluding black folks) they all did immigrant, family humor (started by, say, Margaret Cho). Now people are getting smart (sort of) and realizing there’s such a thing as a ““-American. But in the end, your comedy has to be unique and personal, especially when you start out, if you stick to “current” stuff, your punchline is usually already milked by the time you have a chance to get it out there.

  8. I worked on the “Last Comic Standing Semi-Finals”, and Papa CJ was not funny, to me as an Indian or the rest of the crew who were mostly Caucasian. Seemed like he was trying too hard and from what I remember he was a bit crude, which isn’t always necessary to be funny (ie Dan Nainan, Rajiv Satyal…)

    Here are some more Indian stand up comedians you may like: http://www.indianinvasioncomedy.com.

  9. Danny Bhoy is one of the biggest comics on the UK/Australasian circuit – his gigs almost always sell out.

    Why isnt he big in America yet? He is a comic genius. Definitely my favorite comedian from now on. That he is half desi is just icing on the cake.

  10. I let the “Live at Gotham” pass since I wanted to contribute to the record breaking opening for the story of the other Gotham city that was released on Friday.

  11. Thanks Amardeep. The first time I heard about Hari Kondabolu was at Sepia Mutiny. I checked out his stuff at Youtube and now I’m a fan. I agree about Danny Bhoy being funny as well. @Kaka. He’s half desi. I read an article a while ago about him with this title “Danny Bhoy defies heritage to be a comedy purist”. Um..no. He does make jokes about being Scottish so one side of his heritage does impact his comedy.

    I’d take both of them over Russell Peters any day.

  12. 30 · Dan Nainan said

    Well Sunshine, thank you so much for your kind comments! As to everyone else, I think Hari is hilarious; I was actually at that taping and he brought the house down! I actually met him afterwards and spoke to him a little bit, what an unbelievably nice fellow. He actually referred a client to me who wanted to book me for a show, which is unheard of in this cutthroat business. As far as Papa CJ, I haven’t met the man, although I’ve exchanged e-mails with him… it’s great to see him make the show (although of course I wish it had been me instead). I think he’s got some really funny material. In general I wouldn’t rip on a comedian unless you have tried this yourself… this is a very difficult job and the other thing you have to understand is that any given point when you see a comedian, he or she is still developing and growing as a comedian. We can’t all be like Russell but remember, Russell’s been doing it for more than 19 years now. As Jerry Seinfeld says, the number of years you’ve been doing comedy is what determines how good you are, and I think that’s true. Anyway, if I might toot my own horn a little bit here, here’s a recent article about me from the New York Times, along with my best video clip to date, along with one of my radio bits in which I imitate Bill Clinton. Enjoy, and if you want to know more, check out my website, or e-mail me at calrocker@hotmail.com. New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/business/26flier.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=nainan&st=nyt&oref=slogin&oref=slogin Performance for 4500, mixed audience http://youtube.com/watch?v=BWC83bC6Dmo Performance for 1800 Indians http://youtube.com/watch?v=say9MsdpGXs Bill Clinton impression on KSAN radio http://www.danielnainan.com/clinton.mp3

    Dan:

    I’m very familiar with you, bro! You’re amazing, and your comedy is very good even for a family. So I appreciate that very much. Dan, have you ever considered being an actor? I’m sure that you’d do an amazing job there with your good looks. Heck, wouldn’t it be very funny if there was a “Harold, and Kumar” comedy movie, featuring their mutual half-brother, Dan Nainan?

    Keep up the good work, and hopefully, we’ll see you back here in Boston really soon, buddy!

  13. Not a fan of comedians that rely on ethnic jokes, like these guys do. Really, they are just rehashing the same old jokes. Tell me when they find the brown Larry David.

  14. Not a fan of comedians that rely on ethnic jokes, like these guys do. Really, they are just rehashing the same old jokes. Tell me when they find the brown Larry David.

    I feel the same way. But he/she’s in India, not the diaspora. And their potential audience has grown accustomed to dancing midgets

  15. 62 · Darrie said

    I’d take both of them over Russell Peters any day.

    Didn’t know your taste leaned towards a triple decker peanut butter sugar sammich…

  16. Thanks,Ick. That’s going to do wonders for my confidence. Awwwwrighty then.

    Don’t pay any attention to him, Narinder. You’ve obviously got talent. Just keep performing and making people laugh. Maybe we’ll see you on “Last Comic Standing” soon.

  17. Seahawks Fan, thanks. My goal is to try out for “Last Comic Standing.” However, I have to workout some new material before. Stand up comedy, for the most part, is about writing and rewriting. Here’s a link to my last weekend’s show:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZemM-2s00M

  18. Papa CJ had no regard for the tv audience who heard him do the same jokes three times. I realize it worked at the beginning but he had to show a progression. Did he really expect to do the sucking on your wife’s boobie joke everytime? ISnt he trying to build a fanbase outside of the live audience there.

  19. I think Papa CJ is wity and clever, but I don’t think his humour translates well into stand-up comedy. His stand-up is just not that funny. Outsourcing, Indian accents?? Every Indian comedian for the last 10 years has been doing the same material as him – except that when they were doing it, it was fresh. Can you imagine an hour of him?! Yikes.

  20. Papa CJ did participate in laughter challenge II and he was the only guy ever who could not make Siddhu laugh.