Vir Das: Don't over-intellectualise me, I am a joker
Vir Das on his second Netflix show winning acclaim and comparisons with comic Hasan Minhaj
In showbiz parlance, you know you've arrived when your face is splashed across a billboard on Times Square. But Vir Das chooses to play it cool when we meet him at his Bandra office. "What star? I am perpetually jet lagged, and I have to take Watson [his bull dog] to the vet. Stars don't do these things," he quips. And just like that, his self-deprecating brand of humour comes to the fore.
After Abroad Understanding (2017), his second Netflix original, Losing It, has opened to a thunderous response. The stand-up comic is currently working on his third collaboration with the streaming giant. It's no mean feat, but Das gives himself little credit for how his career shaped up.
"It was a stroke of luck; an agency saw my work, flew me down and I had to do an improv at a Hollywood club. Netflix officials saw me there and offered me a show. ABC Studios spotted me during my appearance on Late Night With Conan O' Brien. That's how I came on board for Whiskey Cavalier [an upcoming series]. I see my career as a collective act of kindness. Indian fans tagged their US friends; it is because of them that my appearance on Conan's series was amongst the most watched videos of his show."
Das is probably the only Indian comic who has made his presence felt internationally. Ask him if there's a method to the madness, and he says, "I can't wear that introspective look and talk about my craft. I am focussed on what I have to do right now - I cannot be bad at all, and being good requires a great deal of work. Only artistes who take themselves seriously talk about their process. Don't over-intellectualise me, I am a joker!"
Comparisons with Netflix's blue-eyed boy, comic Hasan Minhaj, are inevitable. But Das shrugs it off, saying, "Hasan and I have deep respect for each other, and we have conveyed it warmly. But our work is drastically different. His is a classic American story, a first-generation immigrant take. It's assumed that people are pigeonholed in America, but that's not true. People want to know who you are and what your story is."
By Das' own admission, Priyanka Chopra has been instrumental in paving the path for more Indian artistes in the US. "Population statistics also come into play because American network shows are now on digital platforms. I try to make my writing personal to make sure that there is more than mere laughs. I wrote Losing It as a show questioning religion, masculinity and world views. When I go on stage, I walk out as a proud Indian.
I make fun of my country and take immense pride even in the jokes. I don't care who is left or right in my audience. I don't endorse tribalism and that's what I maintain through my acts."
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