A Shockingly Racist & Vile Comedy Show! Recounting A Disgruntled Audience Member A Show!
On February 15th, 2020 I got a chance to perform my show “Politely Angry” at the 3rd Street Gallery in Carnegie in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, my hometown. Now before we go on with this tale, I want to say that I had a really good time at the gallery despite the events I am about to recount. The gallery is not at fault for the opinions of their patrons or the reactions of certain audience members. In fact they were pretty support of this pinko Comedian trying to bring a different perspective to a crowd that may not heard these words, ideas or sentences in their lives before.
I’ve been attending shows at the Gallery for a number of years. In 2012 I started going to staged readings of original works and theatrical performances. It became a fun Monday ritual for me. I’d hangout with some of the actors and writers and then jet off to a late night mic to work on material. Some of these actors even became Stand Up fans, including my old math teacher!
One of these cats, Robert, contacted me last fall to attend a panel discussion about Stand Up Comedy and its place in society. I enjoyed the hell out of it! I always enjoy talking about comedy, the craft, the ins & outs of touring, the engineering behind a joke or a philosophy! It’s a joy! After the show apparently I made an impression on some of the regulars who wanted me to come back and perform my full show.
So after we coordinated, we lined up the show for February 15th. I was honestly concerned with it being so close Valentines Days. See, my type of comedy doesn’t scream romance…it’s more of “let’s get up and do some shit to change the current system that’s fucking us” comedy. It’s not particularly date night comedy. But to my surprise, we sold a decent bit of tickets and had a good amount of folks at the door. I had a few high school friends show up and even my old math teacher arrived with some friends.
By the time I showed up, about 40 minutes before showtime, some folks had already shown up. They were the gallery regulars and some of them were older. Usually, I don’t have an issue with an older crowd. In fact sometime I do better with an older because they tend to appreciate the historical anecdotes in my act. This would not be the case. More on that later.
I sat by the door with my openers, Vincent Didiano and Mike Buzzelli, as well as Robert welcoming people coming in. We saw one Indian person come in with a friend, pay the cover, smile at me and then go into the gallery. Mike nudged me and cracked a joke about the Indian audience member. I laughed and said, “You know it goes one way or the other with Indian folks in the crowd. Either they really enjoy the show or hate me! There’s never been an in between!” I believe this is what most writers would consider foreshadowing!
We kicked off the show a few minutes late, which is pretty normal for a comedy show. In 15 years of doing comedy, I’ve only done 3 shows that have either started on time or early. Vincent kicked things off and then Mike took over and brought me up! We had about 30 people in the room that seemed to be pretty excited to see the show! And so I began the show as I had for the past year, talking about how this is a show about the Truth. And then I talked about my most recent trip to India.
This is the the bit below. Now, this video was recorded in October, and by February a few jokes had been polished up a bit more, but this will give you the gist of what I’m saying about India.
At this point I can see a few of the older folks starting to get a squirmy in their seats. But by the time I had made the first statement about India, the only other Indian person in the room had a look of shock on his face. He was squirming more than the elderly folks. It was almost like I was giving up state secrets about Indian culture that wasn’t to be uttered to the gringos in the room! By the time I mentioned the cows on the streets, he stood up and walked away from the show room.
The show went on. Now “Politely Angry” had a lot of material involving the problems with Capitalism, the media, religion and got dark at points. Every joke about religion or Capitalism I made, I could see the older folks getting uncomfortable and wanting to clutch their pearls. Later in the night, over a few drinks, one of my old high school friends informed me that an older gentleman shuddered every time I said ‘Fuck’. Sometimes that’s just the perfect word to describe an economic system built on the same principles as a parasite.
At the end of the show a few folks came by and talked to me but most of the old folks said their thanks and left pretty darn quick. As we were wrapping up Robert and Mike told me about the commotion that Indian fella had caused on his way out the door.
Apparently he was very offended at what I had to about India in that bit. He stormed out the venue, but his friend had to use the restroom. So he walked back in and started pacing in the foyer of the gallery. When Robert approached him to find out if he was ok, he responded by saying “He calls himself a comedian? This is shit! This is bullshit! He’s not a comedian!” Robert said if he’s unhappy with the show, he can give him a full refund, but the Indian wasn’t going to have that.
“Keep the fucking money! He’s making fun of his own country! What the fuck!”
“Well if you give it a few minutes, he’s going to make fun of America too! He often does.” said Robert replied. And that is true, I do make fun some of the cultural norms of America that I find puzzling or illogical.
He then saw his friend come out of the bathroom and stormed out. I was kinda disappointed his reaction but turned to Mike and said “One way or the other, no in between”. By the way, I’m not making up the facts about cows on the street. They are holy animals and for the most part are treated with great respect in India. Here’s some of the cows on I saw on this trip. Prepare to be swooned by the the adorableness!
That bucket is full of water melons and fruits for cow to enjoy. She starred at my now ex-wife and I for a minute. Then she sauntered away, while simultaneously shitting on the road.
This particularly starred me down for minute. I waved at her but I could tell she wasn’t having us stare at her and her calf. So I took a photo or 3 and then went around her. She seemed to be less on edge after we had walked away.
I packed up and met up with my friends Ben, a friend of Ben’s, Derek & his girlfriend Shannon for a few drinks. My math teacher also joined us. We reminisced about the elderly folks and the Indian gentleman and got a chance to catch up. It was a pretty great night! We called it a night around midnight or so, maybe a little later.
When I got home I performed my usual nightly ritual…scroll through social media for absolutely no reason. As I was coming to the end of that I saw a curious message on Twitter, that was followed by a block.
Now I wasn’t aware that sound of laughter had a color associated with it? I must have missed that on my LSD trip. Now through the bit, I was pointing out the various ways your senses are engaged in India compared to in America. The ending of that bit is a reminder that India a “5 sense symphony of a human evolution”. Now I have to ask, what is so fucked up about that? But he missed all that considering that he took offense to sheer notion that I brought up my heritage in the first place.
My perspective of India as an adult traveling there with my partner (now ex) and experiencing the country with new eyes is what I was sharing with the audience. If these facts about India are ‘shocking racist and vile’ I’d very much need to know what this gentleman believes those words mean.
He also accuses me of downplaying my roots. Every single show I’ve written has a piece of my roots in it. I bring my heritage and my perspective as an immigrant in America on stage so people can understand & empathize with that point of view. And at times I’ve succeeded. I’ve had conservatives understand that point of view and have conversations with me about their misconceptions of India and the immigrant experience or even the very idea of immigration. I up-play my roots…to a fault in some comedian’s and comedy clubs opinions.
Now if he had brought up my old videos from 7 or 8 years ago, where I was doing the Indian accent, I’d given him a bit of a pass. Even then, I was writing material to go against the grain of known stereotypes.
Now he doesn’t find me funny, which is fine. I’m not for everyone. But then he says I’m a ‘caricature of a weird comedian’ like Russell Peters, who he finds offensive, but funny. So I’m confused. He’s beyond angry at the ‘shockingly racist & vile’ light of showcasing India to be a vibrant of array of human evolution, as I did…but he also finds Russell Peters humor funny when pokes at racial stereotypes and accents, which is offensive. Which is it? Does offensive anger this gentleman or does it tickle his funny bone.
Now I would have probably brought all this up to him but he blocked immediately after sending the message.
Now for a man that has Spock as his banner, there’s a lot emotion being shown there. I bet he’s a fan of the more human side of Spock.
The following day I began my drive to Huntsville begin last tour I was on before the crisis. I got a phone call from Robert. Apparently I had stirred up a bit of controversy in the borough of Carnegie. Some of the more religious folks had a few problems with my critiques of organized religion. (What were they? You’ll have to wait to download my album to find out!). We talk for a while and my concern was these folks weren’t going to patronize the Gallery anymore. I was assured it wouldn’t be a problem because owner values free speech and differences in opinion.
Robert and I had a good conversation about state of corporate media in our society and he had a few issues with my lambasting of the 3 main political theater networks. But the conversation was friendly and didn’t end in either of one of us blocking each other.
I will admit the I had to make sure that I was missing something. So when I was hanging out with Ben, Derek and Shannon, I had to ask them if what I had said about was offensive. They said no. I asked Robert too and he said no. I had to make sure I didn’t have a blind spot about myself. I didn’t think I did. This was one of those instances where the mere mention of the country was going to illicit a negative reaction from the Indian gentleman. To some people it’s always going live in the black & white…well sometimes white & brown. Some people will choose to see it one way or the other.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!