Comedian Vir Das at Edinburgh Festival

Household name in India brings show Walking On Broken Das to Fringe

Posted: 02.03.12

A Harvard graduate to a gross out film star and household name for comedy – how did that happen?
People get confused – I went to Harvard for an Acting programme and then went to India for a vocation. My initial aim was to come to London and teach theatre and happen to do one show – I really didn’t expect anything to come out of it, but ended up selling 400 tickets in a week. In India, there’s no comedian that is young, edgy and incredibly exciting. I was offered a gig in Mumbai and was proposed a TV show by Times of India and left a flat full of stuff in the US to settle in Mumbai.

Was this always your lifelong ambition?
Stand-up comedy was a rebellion for me. Four years of serious acting training made me want to perform something that was organic, but I never thought of taking this up seriously because I just thought of it as something to pay the bills. I became a comic on TV and films kept on coming but there was nothing serious enough for me to quit my TV series job. I had a roles in ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and ‘Namaste London’ but knew I had to quit my job when I got the role in ‘Delhi Belly’ and ‘Badmaash Company’. ‘Delhi Belly’ was brutal and amazing whereas ‘Badmaash Company’ was glam and young.

How do you feel about British comedy?
I love it – not so much American comedy. I’m a big Monty Python fan and I find shows like The Fringe is refreshing. What’s great is that nobody knows who I am over here – it’s a very small venue so I can learn the ropes and by next year, I plan to come back in a bigger way.

Is it true that only Indians can lovingly beat us Brits when it comes to drinking?
It is true, and the Scottish are a very close second. There’s nothing more than a man’s love when you see two Indian men get a bit of Black Label down their throats.

Are you unique because of your one liners?
I’m not a one-line comedian. I’m more about ranting and my amazingly devilish good looks make me unique.

A personal show ‘Broken Das’ about you and the first time you had sex – is it all for real?
It’s really an Indian perspective on the outside. I do a lot of voices and characters and you finally get to see an Indian comedian with no travelling jokes. I’m not a nice guy on stage. I’m offensive, mean, and I scream – I’m angry because of what I don’t understand or what pisses me off. I talk about my puberty, grandparents, parents and have the advantage of observing the world.

What’s your take on Bollywood hair implants?
I had to get hair extensions for ‘Badmaash Company’ and have a newfound sympathy for actresses who get it done.

You think yourself as an Indian comedian – are they known to be funny?
I am unique out there because in India, the older guys are over 40 and have healthy Bollywood careers, or you have Indian comedians like Russell Peters. I’m talking from an outsider’s perspective in India – like the tube station in the UK and Kate Middleton. People talk about India, but not as we know it. India’s not like Indiana Jones or Slumdog Millionaire – India has a strong economy, developed technology and is a loud country. I don’t understand why you’d want to go to an Indian comedian to learn about India.

In America you were a security guard and dishwasher and were booed off 11 weeks in a row. So when did you get your first laugh?
I finally got my first laugh in America when I lost my mind, because I wasn’t paying the rent and no girls were talking to me. I started telling the audience what was wrong in my life and was completely honest, but that’s what got them going. I did a show in Singapore and had 45 minutes of silence. Women supporters have quadrupled, and I realise that comedy is a very humbling profession.

What’s next for you?
I have a good four films lined up for next year, but my first serious film is called ‘Raak’. I’m in a comedy rock band called AA Chutney – I’m a horrible singer but don’t worry because I’ve got amazingly good looks. I’m not from a Bollywood background or a film family and in ten years time I might not have a film career. But I’ll always be funny.
Walking on Broken Das, City Edinburgh, 226 0000, 12–20 Aug, 7.30pm, £10 (£8). 

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