News / Asia

    'Make Chai, Not War' Showcase Brings Stand-Up Comedy to India

    Three Indian-Americans use comedy to promote religious tolerance, break down prejudices and make people laugh.

    'Make Chai, Not War' Showcase Brings Stand-Up Comedy to India
    'Make Chai, Not War' Showcase Brings Stand-Up Comedy to India

    In the United States, a stand-up comedy routine about Indians in America is never complete without a joke about a miserly shopkeeper with a heavy accent, chasing away riffraff with a broom. But that stereotypical humor doesn't make much sense in India. At least that's what three Indian-American comedians have found on their unique tour of the South Asian nation.

    The “Make Chai, Not War” showcase features comedians Rajiv Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu. They use stand-up comedy to talk about religious tolerance, breaking down prejudices and their experiences growing up Indian-American in the United States.

    While the tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department has lofty ambitions, Rajiv Satyal said, “Our goal is to make people laugh. I know that sounds simple, but it seems that can get lost sometimes in the grander scheme of things.”

    Satyal added that he wanted to “make them laugh in the room and, make them think on the way home.”

    “If you can change some minds through some of the things you’re saying, and get people to talk, then hopefully, we’re promoting religious and racial harmony without being preachy,” he said on the phone from Patna, the tour’s fourth stop.

    The idea for the tour came from a State Department cultural attaché who saw Azhar Usman perform in London several years ago, according to State Department spokesperson Emily Horne. The officer brought Usman over for a tour in India, and he was so well received that the State Department decided to invite the full group this time.

    While the focus of the two-week tour, which ends January 17, is stand-up comedy, the performers are also holding discussions with audiences, facilitating workshops and giving interviews to the media, said Horne. The group is making appearances in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calcutta, Durgapur, Bombay and Patna.

    The comedy routines have been well received, according to Satyal, playing to as many as 1,200 people in sold out shows. Satyal said he does the same act no matter where he’s performing, but he did say there have been occasions on the tour where he’s slowed down the pace to be more easily understood.

    Not all of his jokes work as well in India as they do back home in the U.S. Satyal said he has stopped trying to get laughs using the stereotype in the U.S. that all convenience stores are owned by Indians. On the flipside, he said he can do jokes about the Indian stereotype that Gujaratis are very frugal, which would not be understood in the U.S.

    Satyal also noted that his comedic style is often new to his Indian audiences.

    Traditional Indian comedy has more mimicry of politicians and Bollywood stars, Satyal said, adding that stand-up is a very American form.

    “To get up and talk about, 'Here’s who I am and here’s my point of view, here’s what I think,' … it’s very American,” he said. “[To say] 'Here are my foibles, here are my flaws and my faults,' is very new to Indians.”

    Satyal got his start in comedy in 2002, when his brother spotted a newspaper ad for a contest for the funniest person in Cincinnati, Ohio, Satyal’s hometown in the Midwestern U.S. He made it to the semifinals the first time and won it the next year, he said.

    Comedy is not a common path for Indian-Americans, many of whom are pushed by their parents into more traditional fields like medicine, academia, law and business.

    “Entertainment is kind of the last area someone would go into,” Satyal said, adding that for his parents’ generation, many don’t quite understand making fun of Indian-Americans in a self-deprecating way. But he said that his own parents, who came to the U.S. in the 1970s, have always been supportive of his decision to become a comedian.

    Additionally, he thinks comedy can be a positive force for the Indian-American community.

    “Only when a community is doing well can comedians really emerge and make fun of it,” he said. “It’s actually a compliment that we’re making fun of ourselves.”

    You May Like

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    First Human Head Transplant Planned for 2017

    Italian neurosurgeon, assisted by team of 100 medical staff, to perform 36-hour surgery on Russian man with debilitating muscle-wasting disease

    Biden Urges Global Focus on Cancer as a 'Constant Emergency'

    At Vatican conference on regenerative medicine, Vice president notes that cancer kills more than 3,000 people each day in US alone

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora