These are great times for Asian entertainers, as Crazy Rich Asians has become a top film comedy, John Cho has scored a hit with the thriller Searching and TV series such ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat are providing plenty of opportunities as well. Now a trio of accomplished Indian-American comics — Kabir Singh, D.J. Sandhu and Neel Nanda — are furthering the Asian Invasion by launching the Outsourced Comedy Tour.
The tour’s first stop comes this Friday at the Scherr Forum Theatre in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, and will spotlight life from the perspective of being young and having an Indian heritage in modern America. Yet Nanda, who has made a splash with well-received appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Comedy Central’s Adam Devine’s House Party, Hulu’s Coming to the Stage and Viceland’s Flophouse, says that the tour has a broader goal than that.
“There isn’t a concerted effort to break Indian stereotypes with this show, just a concerted effort to bring people together with laughter,” says Nanda, whose weekly live show “Unnecessary Evil” at the Westside Comedy Theater in Los Angeles was named one of the Top 10 stand-up comedy shows in the city by LA Weekly. “My story and my act do break many stereotypes, but that isn’t necessarily intentional. I think my act is relatable because there are Indian Americans all over the country that defy basic stereotypes.”
The Outsourced show was the brainchild of Singh, who has been producing and hosting a diverse comedy showcase with the same name in the San Francisco Bay area. He ultimately decided to take the concept nationwide. Nanda has known and worked with the other two comics for years.
Nanda was born in Atlanta to parents who immigrated from India after their arranged marriage. He has been a huge fan of comedy since childhood, when he would watch Comedy Central in middle school with a notebook on his lap, writing down his favorite jokes before retelling them at school.
“I didn’t realize I was stealing jokes until I was in high school,” recalls Nanda. “When I was in high school I started writing my own jokes using the structure of some of the jokes I had previously stolen. I filled up a notebook of jokes and didn’t realize until college that I could go to an open mic and tell them. I actually had a friend read the notebook and tell me, ‘You know you can just go perform these, right?’ I didn’t know, but after a quick Google search I was off to the Laughing Skull open mic.”
Nanda keeps his material “personal and relatable,” treating his Indian heritage as a part of his life rather than as a dominant source of topics and opting for “whatever feels funniest.”
He notes that all three comics on the bill have their own unique styles and topics, with headliner Singh bringing his high-energy, in-your-face attitude and sharp wit fresh off his Comedy Central debut on Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution. Sandhu has performed everywhere from the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas to the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Aside from stand-up, Nanda is making a concerted effort to ride the wave of interest in Asian actors, having auditioned nearly 200 times already this year, leading to several small parts that give him the confidence of knowing he’s on the right path.
“I would say my proudest accomplishment thus far in comedy is performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” says Nanda. “I’ve always wanted to do a set on late night, and Jimmy Kimmel was my first choice. So the fact that it came together kind of blew my mind. I’ve performed on other networks like Comedy Central, Hulu, Viceland, etc., but Jimmy Kimmel was the first place I performed where my parents were a fan of the host.”
The Outsourced Comedy Tour will take place on Friday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. For tickets and more information, call 805-449-2787 or visit civicartsplaza.com.