Vir Das calls himself an old guy in stand-up comedy but he has noticed it grow year after year, and is happy that people are spending more money on it than they ever have.
Vir Das calls himself an old guy in stand-up comedy but he has noticed it grow year after year, and is happy that people are spending more money on it than they ever have. He has been doing it for over ten years now, at first in the US, with his comedy special ‘Brown Men Can’t Hump’ and other shows, before coming to India. The Unbelievable Tour was taken to over 20 cities where stand-up comedy was not heard of much. And now in its second edition, Vir has added a lot more to his special act.
“I spent about a month and a half in the US when I did about 30 shows in 40 days for the second edition. A lot of updates have been made. There is stuff about American elections, about Islamophobia and terrorism,” he says. In fact he begins his act with a really long bit on Islamophobia and terrorism, on a serious note. Vir would also add a bit of local material depending on what city he is in. “Apart from that it is a largely personal show and that doesn’t change.”
He tells a series of incidents some of which are true and some which are not and the audience would be asked to guess which is which. Vir doesn’t believe in censoring himself in any way, shape or form. “I consider myself to be an intelligent person. And I think I am a nice guy. If any joke is not funny, the audience will let you know in three seconds, whether it is on social media or any place else. If it is not funny, they don’t laugh. You find out pretty fast if you got it wrong.” And that pretty much states his stance on the Tanmay Bhatt issue. He had recently said he thinks a comedian should be only classified as funny or not. “Stand-up comedy is as much about listening as it is about talking. You have to listen to your audience and see what they are laughing at. If they are willing to go for a lot of stuff then go with it. But if they are not and you sense it is kind of a conservative group then you stay within what they want to hear about.” Taking offence is easy. “I am offended by the fact that women a ren’t safe. At the fact that there are educational flaws in the system. But what do I do. I get up every day and do my job. If you are offended by a joke I suggest you do the same thing, which is, get up every day and go do your job. There is no need for you to do something about it.” He too does his bits, bringing out messages through his acts but it is not a conscious effort. “I don’t want to sound preachy because the act is very much about humour. You try to triviliase things. I think they come out by virtue of who you are and what you believe in.”
There is of course a whole other side to Vir, his acting side. There’s been quite a bunch of movies lately in Bollywood, and there are more films happening — Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay, Khanna Patel with Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal, 1984 with Soha Ali Khan and a fourth film happening.
He had trained as a method actor and performed in several plays in his early days but then Vir got known for his stand-up comedy. He wouldn’t give up one for the other. “They compliment each other really really well. It is nice to have people coming for your comedy show just because they have seen you in a movie. And now they are buying tickets which they wouldn’t normally do. And on the other side I got into movies because I was a stand-up comedian. I could skip the audition line and cut my way into acting. It is a marriage between the two.”