And while he may be a stranger to Chicagoans, Illinois is no stranger to him. Das attended Knox College in Galesburg, and he’s back in town for a weekend of shows at The Improv in Schaumburg. We chat with Das about the comedy scene in India and how he’s adapting his stand-up routine for American audiences.
On how he ended up at Knox College
It’s cornfield-college-cornfield but they give you 90% financial aid so it’s filled with international students.
On getting the acting bug
Harvard has this program called the Stanislavsky School which is in collusion with the Moscow Arts Theater. …That’s where I felt I really learned to act because I was with these Russian people who were Stanislavsky’s disciples so to speak and very brutal. You know, American’s are very constructive, and they’ll say, ‘I see what you’re doing but take a different direction.’ Russians: ‘It’s terrible, get off stage. I don’t like you. You insult Chekov…’
On the difference between Indian and American audiences, and why stand-up isn’t as widely embraced in India
Americans are an older comedy audience so the protocol is set. …Indians…you kind of have to yank the laughter out of their throat. …Every culture has its own local hybrid form of standup. So for us it’s actually stand-up poetry that happens in Hindi and Urdu which [are] wonderfully witty satires but they rhyme and are written in verse. That’s been happening for thousands of years. But the [five-year-old] English stand-up scene in this cool everybody’s trying everything [phase]. And the audience isn’t jaded by it just yet. …
Comedy is not crime. We haven’t discovered protocols just yet. We haven’t discovered that it’s okay. I was at [The Improv] and it was this wonderful room where they’d never heard an Indian talk about Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders …because the Indian accent has always been the punch line in America, it’s never been a perspective.
Vir Das is performing Friday night at The Improv in Schaumburg, IL.