Last March, when Vir Das became the first Indian comedian to headline the famous Los Angeles’ routine, Hollywood Improv, little did we know, it would pave the way for more firsts on American shores. One year down, and Das has become the first Indian to have his own Netflix special.
Titled ‘Abroad Understanding’, the comedian sums it up, “self-indulgingly” as he puts it, “It’s an understanding of abroad, as well as a ‘broad’ understanding,” he laughs. It was Netflix that spotted him during his routine and offered him a special. The 75-minute long show was filmed in front of a live audience of 12,000 people at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Stadium and an unassuming basement in New York that had 200 people.
The show, as Das says, is about a journey across the world. “The core idea was to keep the show Indian. So long, being Indian and having an Indian accent has always been the punch line, never the perspective. I wanted to make sure my show had an authentic Indian perspective on issues in both America and India — from Obamacare, to racism and rise of the right wing, article 377, everything. It had to sound and feel like an Indian comic travelling around the world and not like a guy who wrote keeping a world audience in mind.” However, it’s a mix of both personal and worldviews, he clarifies. “I like to make fun of myself more than anybody else. So, from my first kiss, to a life changing car accident, my own life forms a large part of the routine. I hope to God, it’s funny,” he smiles.
Incidentally, the show was filmed two days before Donald Trump was elected President of United States. “This year Netflix is doing 10-15 specials, all but mine were shot at that time. I got a call from them saying that this was going to be their first take on Trump post his victory, so I better have something original to say. And, considering that late night television in the US has been doing Donald Trump jokes for over two years now, that was tough!”
There’s a part in the trailer where Das is seen addressing the controversial Muslim ban. “This was last November. I had written about the Muslim ban, but wasn’t sure whether or not to include it. I went with my gut. I thought that the wall may not be built, but he [Trump] certainly seems crazy enough to implement the [Muslim] ban.”
The comedian chose Delhi because that’s his hometown. “It would also make me the first comedian to perform at the massive Indira Gandhi Stadium,” he says. Why New York, we ask. “Well, New York has the toughest crowd. If your joke is bad, they won’t laugh. I wanted to prove myself to a tough crowd like that. It was amusing to hear them talking about how they had never seen an Indian like that!”
Premieres on April 25 on Netflix