But Narinder’s “My Turn” essay in this week’s Newsweek is much more to my taste. The key section for me was this:
“A lot of people ask me why I wear a turban,” goes one of my jokes. “I tell them it’s because it contracepts my vices. But you know what, turbans are great contraceptives . . . I haven’t had sex in five years!”
I became more ambitious. I now wanted to show the entire audience that Indians, Muslims or brown people in general were affable and moderate. Because I received my first couple of threats from Sikhs, I had to convince myself that my fellow Sikhs were in fact also moderate. But it felt strangely exciting reading the verbal barbs posted on my first YouTube clip: I was having an impact.
I e-mailed some of the overzealous Sikhs and told them that I was making fun of prejudice against those who wear turbans, not the turban itself, which seemed even more sacred now. After 9/11, many Sikhs had cut their hair and stopped wearing turbans. The menacing looks and discrimination were too much. Our visible identity in numbers was dwindling in both America and India. Bollywood films had reduced Sikhs to fools and caricatures. In America we were being taken too seriously; in India, not enough. It sometimes made me feel compelled to conform and fit in, too. (link)
Seeing Narinder Singh say this makes me appreciate his approach to comedy more, in spirit if not in the actual performances I’ve seen. For one thing, though the reasons were different I too received my share of hate mail around the time I was first blogging at SM, (including an outright threat, from a fellow Sikh). I sympathize partly because I think the temptation is strong to “make an impact” and get attention with edgy statements — every writer, blogger, or comedian just starting out knows this — even if it offends some people and loses you some friends.
Still, I’m not sure he’s quite there yet in his actual comedy routine. What do people think?
To end on a positive note, Narinder Singh’s final quip might well be the funniest line he’s written:
Still, I completely understood my fellow Sikhs’ sensitivity and their fear of being marginalized further. I really didn’t mind the death threats and the heckling, as long as I continued not having sex.