Almost a year after the passing of the Father of Indian comicsAnant Pai, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop pays tribute in New York on February 16 to the comic series he created.
Amar Chitra Katha: Monica Ferrell, Chitra Ganesh, Keshni Kashyap, and Himanshu “Heems” Suri of Das Racist
Does your knowledge about the Ramayana come entirely from comics your mom brought you from Jackson Heights? Or are you a comic book fan interested in engaging with one of the bestselling comics in both Asia and the world? Party down with the Workshop’s tribute to Amar Chitra Katha, the beloved Indian comic that’s sold more than 90 million copies, often featuring lovelorn maidens, fearless saints, and mythical kings romping around a half-toned South Asian fantasia, tinted yellow, blue and green.
I’ve read the Ramayana and enjoyed the comic versions too. I’ll also admit that much of my knowledge of the Bible comes from the colorful, engaging Amar Chitra Katha comics. For more details on the event, visit aaww.org.
In her one-woman show Unladylike: The Pitfalls of Propriety, comedian Radhika Vaz tackles subjects like “proper” female behavior, modern relationships, and the ubiquity of bikini waxes. Having recently returned from touring India, Vaz will be performing Unladylike at the The Producers Club in New York City on Friday, December 9 (more details below). I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about the show.
What inspired you to write Unladylike?
I had been doing improv for a really long time and then I started writing monologues. I always wanted to do a one-hour show on my own for a few reasons. I was auditioning for parts and wasn’t getting anything. You know, I am practically 40. I am Indian with an Indian accent, I’m not even an Indian with an American accent, so I wasn’t fitting into any of the roles. Writing the show was what really pushed me out there.
Stories about your husband and family often appear in your work. Have any of your relatives ever told you that something was off-limits?
No, they haven’t. I definitely do believe that I have to at least show them the piece before I post it to my blog. Most of my pieces start out on the blog, I usually post it before it is performed.
I remember I posted something once and my husband was like, “You really should have shown me this before you posted.” If it is something related something like alcohol abuse or anything embarrassing, I show it to them. When writing about my friends I change names a lot.
Do you consider Unladylike to be a feminist show?
I hope it is. I am certainly not the first person to talk about these things, but I definitely hope that people look at it that way. To elaborate a little bit, I definitely think that I speak a lot about the wide disparity in the way that men and women are viewed.
You may know comedian Kumail Nanjiani from his stand-up and TV work (Franklin & Bash) or his brush with John Mayer, all of which have been the subjects of past posts on Sepia Mutiny. If you’re a fan, you’ll want to listen to his recent interview with Shirin Sadeghi of New America Media covering such topics as how he went from studying philosophy and computer science in Iowa to stand-up, the biggest challenge of being a Pakistani American comedian, what he describes as his fading Pakistani accent with a trace of British school, his Twitter presence and his nerdist alterego.
In the beginning of his stand-up career, Nanjiani said the biggest challenge of being a Pakistani American comedian was telling the jokes he wanted to tell about movies, video games and TV shows, and not the jokes he was expected to tell about 7-11 or 9/11. After Nanjiani and his interviewer made reference to what was a new crop of post-9/11 comedians who were South Asian American and Middle Eastern American, the interviewer noted that unlike many of them he has an accent and “does not speak as someone born and raised here.”
There are those comedians that play upon their own stupidity to make people laugh at them. And then there are the other comedians, the smart comedians, that can make witty social commentaries on the state of the world, make you think, drop knowledge, and make you laugh really hard. I have got to say that after seeing Hari Kondabolu perform this week with his troupe Laughter Against the Machine, he is definitely of the latter variety. It’s about time the world noticed. Comedy Central has. This Friday at 11pm, Hari Kondabolu has his very own half an hour long special, Comedy Central Presents: Hari Kondabolu. Set your DVR and be prepared to laugh and groan.
I virtually sat down with Hari to ask him a few questions about his forthcoming special, what makes him funny and his tension filled relationship with his brother. (Check out Phillygrrl’s previous interview with Hari here). Read below.
Taz: Are you nervous about what is going to happen on February 11th, 2011 at 11pm?
Hari: HA! You’re making this sound like a catastrophic event that will take place 4 times that night in the various mainland U.S. timezones. Honestly, I think it’ll be fine. I filmed the thing months ago and it’s been edited down to 22 minutes and there’s nothing else I can really do besides hope the edit looks good and captures the spirit the jokes were written in and how they were performed live that night. I’m anticipating that some people will like it, some people won’t and that I’ll definitely be seeing some mean spirited messages on a variety of social media and probably in the comments section of this very blog post. Am I right, brothers and sisters?
T: What is the absolutely funniest thing to you right now? Something that made you laugh so hard you had milk come out of your nose type funny?
H: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the last thing that made me laugh out loud was how a friend on twitter described the Black Eyed Peas as “Will.i.am, Fergie…Michaelangelo and Raphael.” It was a well-placed Ninja Turtles reference. Seriously, I am ashamed.
T: Do you feel like you need to censor yourself and your comedic material the more famous you become? Because, I don’t know if you realize that, but getting your own Comedy Central special makes you preeeeetty famous.Continue reading →
New York comedian Hari Kondabolu is known for a lot of things. There is of course his standup comedy, which landed him on Jimmy Kimmel Live and on the HBO Comedy Festival. He’s also the prolific creator of hilarious comedic sketches, which he often posts on YouTube, including the award-winning short film, MANOJ (which Amardeep blogged about in the past). But what I found striking about Kondabolu’s particular brand of comedy is his determination to both entertain and enlighten through his work – as opposed to simply mining his South Asian background for laughs. Says Kondabolu, “When you’re doing something that is clearly ignorant and at the expense of others in your community, that’s a different kind of thing… There is enough racism in comedy directed towards us [as a South Asian community], why are we adding to it?” Below is an excerpt of the interview I did with Kondabolu for MTV Iggy in anticipation of his appearance alongside DJ Rekha, Fair and Kind, The Kominas and other artists at UNIFICATION 2010. (You can find the rest here.) I hope you mutineers will enjoy his incisive answers as much as I did.
When did you start doing standup comedy? Was it something you always knew you wanted to pursue as a profession?
No, I definitely didn’t see this as a job I could have in the world. I remember first telling my parents I wanted to be a comedian when I was like 7 or 8 years old and my mother flipped. “Absolutely not! Don’t ever say that!” It was like I had used a curse word or said “God doesn’t exist” in front of them (I have done both these things in front of them since then.) Even if I day-dreamed about being a comedian as a kid, how could I ever see it as a full-time job knowing my parents busted their butt to feed and educate their kids! I’m still amazed at how I stumbled into this career and what has resulted.
I was the biggest Badmash comicstrip fangirl. Biggest. So it was with giddy excitement that I opened up my e-mail announcing a new Desi comicstrip hitting the interwebs by Badmash boy Sandeep Sood. ACK! (“Amar Chitra Katha”) is a “comic that places two bit characters from the Mahabharata into modern-day Jersey.” With a plot line like that, how can you not be just a wee bit curious?
See Issue 1 to Ack! right here. The comic strip is only two weeks in, so who really knows where the story can go from here. At this rate, just about anywhere. Who woulda thunk of Jersey-fiying the Mahabharata? What was Sandeep thinking?
I first learned about Hinduism through comic books…So, like a good, inclusive Hindu, I allowed these stories to merge with the other epics I followed on Saturday mornings and then recreated during the week. Continue reading →
Happy Humpday, SM readers! Hope you’re having a great week. Whilst stalking my friends’ Facebook pages, I came across the best music video EVER via Sugi. Behold: the Interwebz phenomenon that is Wilbur Sargunaraj, who apparently first came to attention through ‘Blog Song’ back in 2007. Since then he’s done many, many videos. But man, am I loving this beat right here. It doesn’t hurt that he has those adorable aunties self-consciously throwing it up in the back. Seriously, this song needed to be my ringtone yesterday. Enjoy!
Russel Peters is the only other Desi person I know to have had a Comedy Central special, though I could be wrong on this one. What I do find interesting though, is how different Peters and Ansari’s comedy styles are from one another. I could be snarky and say style differences reflect a Canada vs. U.S.A. thing, but that could just be the residual Olympic effect speaking. In reality, it seems that Peters relies on his Desi background for his jokes, and Ansari has moved away from that, using Desi references more as seasoning than crutch. But maybe, that really is reflective of a Canada vs. U.S.A. thing.
The story goes like this – Kumail was scheduled to do a comedy set at the Slipper Room a couple weeks ago, when John Mayer (the musician) showed up unannounced to the show and jumped on the mic for an unscheduled five minute comedy performance… that turned into an awkward twenty minutes. Mayer’s comedy bit on the mic ate into Kumail’s scheduled performance time. Allright, fine. A famous musical douchebag takes the mic, and feels entitled to hog a comedy stage. To be expected, I guess. But then, he turned into a racist douchebag.
To hear Nanjiani tell the story, he was somewhat rattled after having had his set time cut by John Mayer, but things got awkward after Mayer referred to the Pakistan-born Kumail as “Kabul.” Whoops! Making matters even worse, Mayer apparently then began heckling Nanjiani onstage, telling him that “he looked like a brown guy but sounded like a white guy.” Double whoops! [vulture]
Check out an interview with Kumail below. They refer to John Mayer as the accidental racist at the 4:25 point.
Comedians say racist remarks all the time doing stand up. But I think what sets this apart is that, well frankly, Mayer isn’t a comedian and he hijacked a comedy set with pompous entitlement. Secondly, he interupted Kumail’s set to heckle him with racist comments.
In the words of Angry Asian Man, “Thinking you can be an actual standup comic is one thing, but interrupting another comic’s set, then making jokes about the Brown man? That’s racist! Stick to the music, Mayer (if you must).” Continue reading →
The latest Brown Girls comic made me cringe with unease when it popped up on my blogreader this week. Swiped from my latest blog addiction, Devis With Babies, this week’s Brown Girls episode made me wonder just how many similar conversations were had this election cycle.
As a SDMF (Single Desi Muslim Female) in my twenties, I’ve had my fair share of Brown Girls-type talk, usually over brunch and usually about boys. Many boys. Over the years, I’ve dated a Desi Hindu and a Black Muslim and I’ve always wondered with whom my parents would cringe less with — would their racial prejudice or Muslim orthodoxy take precedence? I’ve always thought they would be more accepting of a Muslim man, no matter what race, but my friends always begged to differ that racism prevailed over all. Of course, I would like to think that my parents would accept anyone that I would love, but we all know the desi Bradley effect there.
Truth is no boy over the years has met the bar to be introduced to my parents so I have no way to test this effect yet. But I am curious, if Obama is elected President, and my parents vote for him, will it be more acceptable for me to bring home a black man? If elected, will Obama essentially increase the desi dating pool of what boys us SDMFs can bring home? Single brown girls, what are your experiences with the Desi Dating Bradley Effect?