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Vir Das Brings His Comedy World Tour to Bangkok

by Mahmood Hossain

Vir discusses the importance of thought-provoking comedy.

By Mahmood Hossain

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the term ‘comedy’ evolved from ancient Greek and Roman stage plays with happy endings, to becoming synonymous with satire and humour, and provoking non-stop laughter. From Shakespearean plays to court jesters challenging the crown with risqué comedic jabs, these on-stage performers have delivered jokes that have the ability to disarm us, make us forget the worries in our lives for a brief moment, and more importantly, they usually remind us not to take things too seriously.

Vir Das, who started his comedy career in the early 2000s, is the ideal example of the aforementioned elements of comedy. After he graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, he was accepted into the Harvard University and Moscow Art Theatre joint Stanislavsky Program, becoming a method actor for several months. Those years of training and comedic instincts thrust him into Indian cinema, springboarding his television and film career in the mid to late 2000s. And as for the bold and unapologetic critique of people in power and society in general? Vir checked that off the list too with a couple of his Netflix stand-up specials that stirred up quite the controversy back in India.

Fortunately, the dust has somewhat settled for now, allowing me the absolute pleasure of sitting down with one of the best comedians around. “I’d shot a movie in Bangkok,” exclaimed Vir after I asked him if his upcoming show was his first time in the city. “It was Badmaash Company (2010) for Yash Raj Films, and I think we stayed at the Grand Sukhumvit Hotel Bangkok for 45 days during the shoot. I remember doing a couple of public shows there as well, but that was a long time ago.”

Clearly, since the movie’s release in 2010, Bangkok has changed quite a bit, which has the 44-year-old excited for his return. “I’m definitely gonna eat out! As you can see, I’m talking to you in the costume truck of a movie I’m shooting,” Vir tells me, while indicating his surroundings like Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune (1975- ). I have to wear all these outfits and try to look good, so I’m currently carb-free and sugar-free. That ends when I come for the show. I’m looking forward to having the local food and fine dining, and just gorging myself!”

Well-acquainted with what Bangkok has to offer and after briefly reflecting on his positive experience with the Thai-Indian community many years ago, Vir provided me with a bit more meaning behind his Mind Fool World Tour. “I believe the Mind Fool show is for the ‘idiots’ of the world who haven’t grown up, which is certainly how I feel. There is this massive chapter in ‘adulting’ that we’re supposed to read, and I don’t know where you read or find it, but I clearly missed it,” he reveals, with a laugh. “I feel like a child who is pretending to be a grown-up. I think many adults feel the same way, like we don’t have our stuff together. That’s the core feeling of the show. I ask myself, ‘Am I alone in this?’ I feel like an idiot 90 percent of the time. That’s really the theme. Ultimately, I’ll talk about travelling, happiness, kindness, family, love, democracy, and so on. And I hope you’ll go home laughing.”

The response made me wonder about Vir’s thought process, as personal stories and experiences, and his extensive journey across the world, are what create a solid foundation for his comedy. It led me to ask him what profound experience hasn’t translated to the stage yet.

“I’ve been around the world three times so that’s a tough question to answer, not sure I can simply pick one,” Vir pauses briefly, “but I think this very moment. I’m co-directing my first movie. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my career. I’m also starring in it and co-producing it. I’ve never taken a leap like this before. Imagine, I have a crew of about 100 people who are backing me up and believe in me. Whether this is good or bad, they’re all in. I never got the chance to enjoy this much support from young and enthusiastic people on a day-to-day basis. I think I’ll write an ode based on this process at some point for the stage.”

From one stage to the next, Vir has experienced different audiences from various parts of the globe. In a recent New York Times article, he was described as the “embodiment of standup comedy’s globalisation.” After winning an Emmy for his stand-up special Vir Das: Landing (2022), his humour is truly global. I asked which elements he believes resonate with people, specifically with desi audiences, both domestic and abroad.

“I’m just a perpetual outsider, man,” replied Vir as he ran through the different stages of his identity. “I grew up in Africa as an Indian, then was an African in an Indian boarding school, and then ‘the Indian guy’ at a college in America. And then I was ‘the guy from the American drama school’ in Bollywood. After that, I was ‘the Bollywood guy trying to make it into Hollywood.’ I’ve never truly fit in anywhere, and that’s what makes it global; my show is for the outsiders.”

There is definitely a special connection between him and his audience; it’s evident in his specials. While laughter has been a part of our lives since we were toddlers, the nature of comedy in our lives has evolved from discovering our play instincts, to using comedy often as a defence mechanism when we reach adulthood. While we laugh, it makes us ponder on the more serious nature of things. Vir cleverly uses this side of comedy, as he’s known not only for his thought-provoking interactions with his audience, but for the emotions his performances evoke. His crowds often feel more introspective, as he goes beyond comedy and satire.

“I’m just talking, to be honest. There’s no intended outcome,” explains Vir. “If you have an intended outcome, then just stick to the jokes, as you can depend on the laughter. However, I like the silence [on stage] once in a while. It feels natural and doesn’t feel manipulative. One of the big criticisms in comedy sometimes is, ‘don’t make me think, just make me laugh.’ If you want that, then get somebody to tickle you. But if you’re at my show, you’re going to think too alongside the jokes.”

Anyone would think that someone like Vir Das, in the company of some of the world’s best stand-up comedians in green rooms of comedy clubs and on multiple podcasts, might have accumulated priceless amounts of wisdom. Vir was quick to comically interrupt me: “Good Lord, not one bit! Kuch nahin. Zeeerrooo ghanta! That’s it, that’s how much wisdom I have in my right now.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at his “zero hours” of gathered wisdom. But he did take a moment to add, “I believe if you open yourself up to the fact that your talent belongs to you, and your reputation belongs to other people, you’ll set yourself free. Because then, all you’ll have to worry about is your talent.”

I tried to extract more wisdom from Vir on his recent experiences of performing in some of the world’s most famous and reputable venues in entertainment, such as Carnegie Hall. The atmosphere and history are such a venue must have been a completely different experience; it must have altered the way he performs on stage.

“I don’t think it’s changed the way I perform, except for having higher expectations. It’s Carnegie Hall and it’s sold out months in advance. I was the first comic from India to perform there. At that moment of performing, you’re not thinking of legacy, you just want to put the audience first – they’ve taken Uber, hired babysitters, saved their money, and even cancelled other plans to watch the show. And it’s New York City, so they have plenty of other options. It’s important to make this about them.”

Of course, Vir’s hilarity isn’t just limited to stand-up comedy. We briefly touched base on seeing him back in the film and TV space, such as his upcoming series Country Eastern, a project he’s been working on with Andy Samberg. “I can’t give too much away on projects that are still under development or production,” he demurs. “But right now, I’m in an action comedy, and that’s a first. Similar to Country Eastern, which is about an Indian guy playing country music. I don’t think anyone has seen that before. There’s another project I’m working on where I’m playing a very dark, psychotic character. Again, that’s another first for me. I’m trying to mix it up a little!”

We could have continued our conversation for another hour or so, but as busy as he was, he was soon off to set, after a costume change or two. Naturally, I had to conclude by asking if had some parting words for our wonderful Thai-Indian readers and audience. With his promotional voice on deck, he says laughingly, “Yes! Tickets are still available, please book your seats. Come and see me and I promise you, you’ll be going back home on a cloud.” And there you have it – Vir Das has formally threatened you with a good time, so don’t miss out!

Vir Das’ Mind Fool Tour comes to Bangkok on 19 May 2024 at the KBank Siam Pic-Ganesha Theatre. For more information and to check ticket availability, visit:

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