Laughter is the only medicine…a cure all!

Archana Asthana for India Post

September 9, 2023

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Masala Comedy Club’s 4.0 version was unleashed last week at the Sunnyvale Theater to sold-out shows, reflecting audience confidence and appreciation for the fare. Desi humor dominated in 8 minute slots, with memories of trips back to the homeland, trysts with Bollywood, current experiences at corporations, driving lessons and much more.

The impressive lineup of eight comedians was introduced by Ritwik Verma from Jharkhand, rendering that itself as an act, with his impressions of thespians like Rajkumar, Shatrughan Sinha and Pankaj Tripathi.

As the opening act, he lists the ways in which Bollywood has impacted our lives, and contributed to chasing difficult targets (Shah Rukh teaching us about not taking no for an answer with his leading ladies), dancing at weddings, and personality development (Sridevi as Nagin) to name a few.

Abhay Paranjpe scoffed at profiles over achiever techies put up on LinkedIn that have little bearing on reality, either in physical terms or made up titles. (CEO is the Chief Entertainment Officer?)

Ashok Vijay, the “swami”, clad in saffron and rudraksh flaunting pure Hindi, in his self deprecatory style again leaned heavily on lack of self esteem and self confidence growing up, yet scoring in the end, as the hot, desirable women is now the mother to his children!

Veteran Neha Goel “Phuljhadi” was very comfortable with the audience, taking them along to a surprise solo visit to India, where a series of questions were posed by her mother expressing wonder at who is showered in a “baby shower” when the baby is yet to come.

Divya Sharma, one of the two newcomers, attempted humor on the status of women. Charting a path through history, she exposed the trials of women who are not considered equals. Alternatives to the stereotypical portrayals of women, either as the timid, obedient, and submissive Gandhari, or everything opposite, as the chudail“witch”, are sadly lacking.

Gorakhpuria, Deepak Sharma, a new entrant admitted to having belly button philia and how that shaped his relationship with his Bombay girlfriend.

Rajiv Nema, actor and comic, expounded on reasons why his wife doesn’t answer the phone, which is vastly different before and after marriage, when wooing is no longer needed.

Snehal Pachigar, a versatile comic focused on a single theme of teaching his girlfriend to drive, ending with a shout out to her abilities.

Interestingly, common references were threaded throughout the sequences within unique themes of each act. What also stood out was clean jokes, without resorting to profanity, which is rampant in others. It is good to see talent search by way of biweekly Open Mic sessions open to all from which mentoring and nurturing is provided to the promising ones.

All 15 current members need to prepare fresh content for presentation to the group, from which the top 8 get a shot to be on stage. Heartening to see how MCC is building capacity in a niche area where there is clearly demand, and will surely keep us entertained for some time to come.

For Hinglish Humor, Try Masala Comedy Club

Mona Shah for India Currents

September 13, 2023

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Hinglish Humor in Silicon Valley

Balancing a tech career and comedy using the Ikigai framework involves aligning your passions, skills, and purpose. Enter the Masala Comedy Club, an integral part of the diaspora, where laughter knows no boundaries and cultural diversity is celebrated, and whose members embrace the right and left brain. The Club is a space where Bay Area techies (by day) highlight the humorous nuances of their heritage in their leisure time.

A comedy collective based in Silicon Valley, Masala Comedy Club features stand-up comedy performances by desi comedians in Hinglish – Hindi, English, and somewhere in between. The club was founded in 2019 by film and theater actor, Rajiv Nema “Indori” along with his comedian friends Ritwik Verma, Abhay Paranjape, and Neha Goyal. “The goal was to bring NRI desi experiences to the NRI desi audiences,” says Nema.

A banjara troupe

Rajiv Nema, a gifted comedian and visionary, is the co-founder and driving force of the Masala Comedy Club. A self-described performer, and Naatak co-founder, he says that all he really needs is a stage and a mic. He and his banjara (gypsy) troupe bring their circus to wherever you are.

“I have been doing theater for almost three decades now and compared to that standup comedy gives a different level of creative satisfaction. Seeing a thought that germinated in your mind, blossom into a full-blown set after multiple iterations, and then seeing the audience thoroughly enjoy gives a real high! I see standup comedy as a one-man play whose writer, director, and actor are the same person.”

Humor in daily South Asian life

The Club offers a unique blend of humor that draws from the rich tapestry of cultures within the South Asian diaspora. Providing a platform for comedians from various backgrounds to share their unique perspectives, often highlighting the humorous nuances of their families or day-to-day lives. When I went to their performance, it was a riot! Some of it was in “sudh” (pure) Hindi and went a bit “bumper,” (desi for jokes didn’t land) for me. 

Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun and you often find yourself grinning from ear to ear at a shared joke with your neighbor or just because of the infectious laughter all around you. This celebration of cultural diversity fosters a sense of pride and unity, a feeling of being in a community, reminding us of our roots while embracing lives in our adopted country. 

Clean, incisive comedy

Comedian Shiv Jayaraman adds that “performing with Masala Comedy Club has made me realize that there is an overwhelming support for clean and incisive comedy. After our shows, I am awestruck by the club’s reach and acceptance across the Indian diaspora. In one of our shows, our audience represented no less than 15 states of India and their age range was from 13 to 78. As a performer, what more can I ask for? I don’t think I would have this diverse an audience even if I performed in India.”

Some of the Club comedians and their specialties are: Ritwik (Bollywood family), Neha (India surprise visit), Ashok (unattractive men ending with beautiful wives), Abhay (LinkedIn), Aditya (Air India travel), Deepak (Gorakhpur guy with South Bombay girlfriend), Rajiv (wife doesn’t answer the cell phone), Snehal (teaching driving to girlfriend), Divya (women-centric POV on stories and history), Samay (dating in college), and Shiv (Indian grocery stores.)

A home for local talent

Masala Comedy Club embraces aspiring comedians and has become a nurturing ground for emerging talent, providing a stage for comedians to hone their skills, gain exposure, and connect with appreciative audiences. They have open mic days at India Community Center in Milpitas on Thursdays at 8 p.m. and provide mentorship and support helping countless comedians find their comedic voices while sharing their stories.

A powerful resource in the community, Nema and the founders at Masala Comedy Club agree that the goal goes beyond laughter; it’s about building bridges between communities. They recognize that comedy is a powerful tool for breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and promoting empathy. So, the next time you find yourself at a Masala Comedy Club, remember that you’re not just enjoying comedy; you’re participating in a celebration of cultural heritage and global togetherness.

Information about their next live shows and tickets, here.

In addition to live ticketed shows, they have performed opening acts for visiting comedians from India, presented at Corporate events, and hosted open mics, and improv workshops.