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The Funny Indian Newsletter, Vol. 200!
May 2023: Two Hundred in a Row
Welcome to The 200th Funny Indian Newsletter!
It’s hard to believe I haven’t missed a month in 16+ years. I believe that places my first-ever monthly newsletter at October 2006, the month I declared I was going into standup comedy full-time. What a ride it’s been. For the last half-year, I’ve been thinking I’d assemble some kind of special post. But here’s what I think will be more special: I’d love to hear from YOU. Feel free to comment or reply to me directly. I do read all responses. When did you join this newsletter? What’s been your favorite part of my journey? What has surprised you? What would you like to see more of in my career and in these newsletters? And how has YOUR life changed since 2006? What are you up to? How are you doing?
Alright, on with the news… a lot of big stuff this month, appropriately, from recording my first-ever standup comedy special to a big upcoming Hollywood show to meeting Mindy Kaling. Enjoy…
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A successful Hollywood writer asked for that phrase to be engraved on his tombstone. Wish I could remember who, but it always makes me laugh.
In show business, there's the stuff you make for You and the stuff you make for Them. Indeed, many Hollywood actors refer to their alternating movies (a Marvel sequel and an arthouse film) as "one for me, one for them."
When people ask how my entertainment career is going, and whether it's had its ups and downs, I usually reply, "Actually, I wouldn't say that. It's been quite linear. There are times I wish it would go faster, but then I think of what Louis C.K. (Rest in Peace) said. To paraphrase, 'the faster the rise, the faster the fall. You should actually hope the climb is slow so you're around a lot longer.' Oh, the irony. All in all, there are some things I can't believe I haven't done yet, but there are some things I've done that still blow me away."
(To wit, I worked at Jokers in Southwest Ohio with comedian Isaac Witty the night after he appeared on CBS' The Late Show. He signed his headshot...
"Thursday, Letterman. Friday, Dayton."
Boy, if that doesn't sum up this life, nothing does.)
I don't mean to hit you with my entire résumé, but I'm the first person to perform comedy at Spotify, do an hour of standup in India, and play all 7 continents.
And yet. And yet. And yet.
These were all things I did on my own. With support from bookers and love from my parents, brothers, wife, and friends, naturally.
Sure, I've booked a few small roles, both theatrically — watch me just stand there on Big Time Rush on Nickelodeon — and commercially — who can forget me as Frankie the Elf as I assisted Jen for Toyotathon?
But nobody had yet asked me to record a special or perform a late-night set.
Until this year.
And like they say, it comes down to chance.
At the Sundance Film Festival, our Uber driver, Jeff, happened to mention Dry Bar Comedy as it's based right there in Utah. My fellow comedian and Make Chai Not War brother, Hari Kondabolu, and I were sitting together when he turned to me and said, "YOU of all people should tape a Dry Bar special." Fast forward to the next night when he told me that Keith the booker was expecting my email. I asked, "Wow. You texted him?" "I called him." "Wow. Who calls anyone anymore? That's amazing, bro. Thank you so very much."
I know it's not so easy to get one of these specials because my agent and I tried. So, the whole "who you know" thing is true. This time, Keith gave me my choice of dates and I picked Friday, May 12. And so I got to work writing and performing a 25-min set. (The trend the last few years has returned to the half-hour format due to decreased attention spans.)
The experience was amazing. On the day of the taping, I flew from BUR to SLC, caught an Uber (different driver, though I did text Jeff to thank him) to the Hyatt, checked in, freshened up (went #2), and walked to the studios.
There's a 7 PM and a 9:30 PM and two other comics in front of two sold-out crowds. Comedians Matt Sommerfield and Dorie McLemore did great, we took a 10-min intermission, and then I went on. I couldn't have been happier with my sets.
(Felt like I rose to the occasion like my only other taping: "Indian Invasion Comedy" in Hollywood in 2007. Guess I got booked by someone for that, too, but the distribution was an upload straight to YouTube when the producer (super nice and talented guy) couldn't sell it to Comedy Central. Still, I think my jokes were seen like 10 million times. How quickly we forget.)
After the show, Matt and his friend, Phil, and I tried to find a bar... there's only one open in the whole town. And let's just say the ONLY open bar in a Western town at midnight isn't the place you wanna go. Back to the kitchen in their Airbnb to sip on some half-bourbon and half-scotch concoction. They drove me back to the hotel; I slept and flew back to Burbank to spend the rest of the weekend with my wife and son. Kind of ideal.
Massive shout-outs to...
- Hari Kondabolu.
- Drew Tarvin for pushing me to include a line in the set that I can use for corporate speaking later. (You'll see...)
- J Chris Newberg for sharing his experience with me early on so I knew what to expect.
- The writers who helped me punch up the script: Prashanth Venkataramanujam. Adam Perlman. Matt Greenberg. Matt Damon. Jeff Greenberg. Paul Varghese. Rakesh Satyal. Sachin Waikar. (Dropped one in to see if you're actually reading but the rest are all true.)
- All y'all who attended these shows, especially the 80-min set for Nowhere Comedy. Can't thank you enough, Mom & Dad & Harsha, for recruiting family and friends.
- Jay Davis at Yamashiro Hollywood. (And Maz Jobrani for reconnecting me with Hollywood booker Jay Davis.) Jay, you gave me my first-ever spot at The World Famous Laugh Factory when I arrived here in 2006. I know you mostly grew up in Florida but it still blows my mind you were born in Middletown, Ohio, where I used to go every Tuesday night for orchestra practice. (How Asian is that?) Gotta love my Ohio peeps.
Greg Wilson, Maz Jobrani, Jay Davis, Byron Bowers, Rajiv Satyal.
Russell Peters, Rajiv Satyal, Lachlan Patterson.
- And obviously, all the good folks at Dry Bar Comedy in Provo, Utah.
Sorry to anyone I missed. LMK and I'll add you to that list.
My favorite question? When people asked me if Dry Bar is that hair blowout place. Yeah, guys, a HAIR salon hired a bald man as their spokesperson.
Back to MY WAY... mark your calendars for Thursday, 7/27. I'm recording a 75-min set at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood for submission to the streamers. Details to follow. There Will Be Bourbon. And scotch. And more.
I can't believe this just occurred to me but it instantly made me feel better:
Many of us feel FOMO (fear of missing out) when scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and seeing the amazing things everyone else is doing.
Naturally, I've read that it's a highlight reel and we're often seeing our friends (many of whom aren't even really our friends) at their peaks, not at their troughs.
- Life isn't a competition.
- Even if it is, then the race is only against yourself.
- You're more than your accomplishments, anyway.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Real talk: I'm not sure I deep-down agree with any of that. I kinda do think it's a competition vs. yourself and vs. everybody and that you are exactly your accomplishments. We live in a (sick) capitalistic society so that's just the water in which we swim.
The idea is to reprogram ourselves to get out of that mentality, but I'm not sure how possible it truly is to operate outside of the matrix (and I've been meditating for 20 minutes every single day for seven years). And I'm not sure how helpful it is to keep telling people this so they can just re-quote platitudes and place them in colored boxes on their Facebook profiles.
I need something more practical. And this is it: when I get down on myself for not being further ahead and seeing the incredible feats by everyone else, it's because I'm comparing my achievements to the sum total of everybody's. That's a ludicrous thing to do. OF COURSE ONE PERSON'S PILE ISN'T GOING TO BE TALLER THAN THE REST OF INSTAGRAM'S.
So, now what I do is I pick one person and compare what I've done to what they've done and realize how much better I am.
Wait. I lost the thread. That wasn't supposed to be the conclusion.
In all seriousness, remembering those capital letters above might just help you in the way they're helping me today.
06/29: Rajiv Satyal: Comic-On (Virtual) (moved from 6/1)
07/08: Private Gig (Los Angeles, CA)
07/27: Rajiv Satyal at The Bourbon Room (Hollywood, CA) (pic)
05/05: Levity Live Oxnard with Russell Peters (Oxnard, CA)
05/06: Levity Live Oxnard with Russell Peters (Oxnard, CA)
05/12: Dry Bar Comedy Special Taping (Provo, UT)
A thrill appearing on The Aggressive Life with Brian Tome.
One of the best conversations I’ve ever had. Highly recommend you listen the next time you eat, commute, or clean out your sock drawer.
That Succession Episode Worried Me
𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝑴𝒊𝒅-𝑺𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒐𝒏 𝑹𝒆𝒄𝒂𝒑 𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒔 𝑺𝒑𝒐𝒊𝒍𝒆𝒓𝒔
Usually, I don’t watch a TV show until it’s recommended by five people whose opinions I respect. Especially dramas. While good comedies pay off the whole time, dramas are dependent on the ending and it’s hard to stick the landing. Of course, it helps that Succession is currently the funniest show on television, so it serves both needs.
Season 4 Episode 6 (S4E6: “Living+”) was the first clunker in the entire series. We finally got the equivalant of “Fly” in Breaking Bad, which is still held up as a filler episode in an otherwise great series.
Do You Like Kaling? I Don’t Know. I’ve Never Kaled.
At first, I didn’t recognize her. And for a moment, she was just standing there with her entourage but with nobody accosting her. So, with a clear path to the basket, I took my shot. After all, I had my Jordans on.
Walked up, and as I said to her, I don’t usually approach celebrities, but felt the urge to thank her for all she’s achieved for our community and beyond.
She called me by my name — that might happen when you scrawl your name in huge, red letters and place the name tag across your chest — and we fell right into a convo.
She made me feel as if we’d known each other for years and couldn’t have been more gracious as we walked and talked for a city block on her way out. And far from the madding crowd, it actually felt OK to ask for a pic.
Still buzzin’ from the encounter. Thank you, Mindy!
Many are joking how much great networking can be achieved by picketing with the WGA. Obviously, that's not why I went when invited by my friend, Mouzam, who was going with her friend, Holly. Appropriate name, given we're right next door in Burbank. (It's because it was a 6-min drive.)
I spotted comedian (& writer, obvi) Dana Gould and struck up a conversation with him. He was marching with Clancy Brown, who actually initiated a conversation with me:
Mr. Brown: "Oh, I should've worn MY Bengals hat."
Brown Guy: "Why? Are you a fan?"
Mr. Brown: "Yep, I'm from Ohio."
Brown Guy: "I had no idea. Where?"
"Is that up near Akron?"
"No. Between Dayton and Columbus."
(I resisted the urge to tell him the old Ohio joke:
Where's Engagin, Ohio?
Halfway between Dayton and Marion.)
"Ah, so not TOO far from where they shot Shawshank."
He went on to tell me about a terrible lynching that sadly put Urbana on the map... our mutual extreme dislike for the Congressman of that area, Jim Jordan... and of course, my I AM OHIOAN video, which he said I could send him. Perhaps I should've asked him to grab some Black Label beer.
It's not everyday you get to have a full-on convo with Captain Hadley. (And yes, I really, really had to hold back the desire to pull out any movie quotes. I hadn't sent someone a quote from The Shawshank Redemption in hours.)
He was super nice. When I told him I'd let him get back to it, he replied, "We're just walkin' here," and proceeded to the next topic.
And it's not everyday you get a picture with him... which I did not. It's absolutely not the environment for that. So, I made this. Looks so real, don't you agree?
Mom, thank you for this Bengals hat. Between Arsenio Hall and Clancy Brown, I'm having quite a run here.
Songs that mention other songs. Go.
Your biggest eclectic gap between music concerts?
Just for this one, keep it vocal (e.g., not an orchestra) and English-medium.
Mine? I saw The Beach Boys in Cincinnati and Method Man/REDMAN in Phoenix*.
Credit to Alex Goldberg, who's winning so far, having seen both Diana Krall and Metallica.
What's your "Running Up That Hill"?
I've been meaning to ask this ever since we finished Stranger Things. Even if you haven't seen it, you can answer. Without spoiling that Netflix show, let's just say a character needs to keep listening to that song on repeat all day and all of the night. Which is that song for you?
My answer might surprise you, but it's 1997's "One Headlight" by The Wallflowers. It's far from my most cherished song ever or anything, but I do like it, and despite the fact that it was on seemingly all the time, I never got sick of it.
I don't think I'd want to do this with any of my truly favorite songs for fear of ruining them.
Name a musician you don't like in a genre you do like. There's no point in saying you don't like Jay-Z if you don't like hip-hop. For me, it's Elvis Costello. I like zero of his songs, but I otherwise love New Wave Alternative.
Since this is a FUNNY Indian Newsletter, I present here the 5 funny things that I saw, heard, wrote, or remembered for the last month... otherwise known as FIVE - Funny Indian's V Events.
5. When You Watch Too Much Succession is a solid parody of my 3rd favorite drama of all time. (Points if you know my #1 and #2.)
3. The Best Indian Commentator Ever. Who says the Indian accent isn’t funny?
2. It was quite something to get a text from Roy Wood, Jr. two days before he dropped his White House Correspondents Dinner speech. Congrats to my boy!
1. THAT INCLUDES ME
I'm sad. Those of us who fell in love with WINNEBAGO MAN knew it was coming.
Just found out that Jack Rebney, "The Angriest Man in the World," died a few days ago here in California. The piece, featured on VH1's Web Junk in 2006 (when I started!), became my all-time favorite YouTube video. I've watched it no fewer than 200 times, and probably a lot more. Every single time I film something, I utter at least one line from it — and invariably, somebody gets it.
In fact, the only time I sent to go see The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was when Ben Steinbauer, the documentary filmmaker of WINNEBAGO MAN, appeared as a guest and offered free tickets to anyone who DMd him quickly on Twitter. The doc scored a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes as it tells you everything you wanted to know about the crazy man in the RV video but nothing more. Naturally, Rebney's own appearance on Leno was unhinged, as he devolved into ranting about Dick Cheney... Jack was my kinda guy.
I always fantasized about making the trek up to Manton, CA, to track him down. In fact, I reached out to Ben a couple of times but never heard back. (All good... Ben delighted me with his movie so I can't be too mad at him, though perhaps if I were, he'd make a movie about me.)
In a meta sort of way, my own failing to get it together to go see him before his demise led to a lot of self-anger over the years. "Why can't I find a way to do this? Why am I putting this off? And what's up with all these goddam flies?"*
All in all, it's simply incredible that Rebney made it to 93 years old. That bodes well for all of us who lose it from time to time.
*To get that joke, you really should watch the video. #nsfw
There are a few versions but the original is still the best.
RIP, Jack Rebney.
THANK YOU to all of you for your support. You are my true core of fans — I couldn't do this without you.
Love… and here’s to 200 more,
Thanks for reading Funny Indian! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.