Indian-origin comedians cracking up the world

A mixed cultural experience makes for hilarious situations


November 19, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Indian-origin comedians cracking up the world

Populary known as Superwoman, Lilly Singh is a Canadian YouTuber, comedian, talk show host & actress

Stand-up comedy has gained centre stage in the world over the past decade. As it has become one of the most popular art forms, the artistes - stand-up comedians - across the world have taken the stage by storm with their hilarious jokes and acts.

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Gone are the days when Indian comedians were known for their caricaturist acts. Many shades of brown have now dotted the comedy scenes and comedians of Indian origin have left audience in splits of laughter all over the world.

“To be able to laugh at oneself requires courage and confidence and Indians have mastered this art of making people laugh. They are achieving great success in the field of comedy doing just that and much more. Moreover, being born and brought up in a mixed culture allows them to have the best of both worlds and makes for funny anecdotes whenever the two meet,” Vipasha Malhotra, a 27-year-old comedian from Delhi, tells Media India Group.

Here is a round-up of Indian origin comedians making a splash on the global entertainment scene.

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari is best known for playing Tom Haverford in NBC’s Parks and Recreations

“Ansari’s rise to fame is the stuff immigrant dreams are made of. A brown kid decides to go the stand-up comedy way in New York City during the early 2000s. These are still the times that immigrant parents won’t look beyond medicine or engineering as a profession for their kids,” says Malhotra.

Born in South Carolina on February 23, 1983 to a Muslim family that immigrated from Tamil Nadu, India, the comedian has diversified into being an actor, director, writer and producer. He is best known for playing Tom Haverford in NBC’s Parks and Recreations and for creating critically acclaimed Netflix show, Master of None. He was first noticed in 2007 when he created and starred in MTV sketch comedy Human Giant.

The winner of two Emmys and a Golden Globe, Aziz Ansari made history in 2018 by being the only Asian ever to win a Golden Globe for acting on TV. Ansari was on the TIME list of 100 most influential people in 2016 and continues to create history with his newer formats. Last year, he had his fifth comedy special, Aziz Ansari: Right Now, after the hugely successful Live Madison Square Garden and Buried Alive.

Lilly Singh

Singh’s parents had emigrated from Punjab, in northern India, to Canada soon after her birth

About a decade ago, when nobody could think of YouTube as a career, Lilly Singh took up making videos full time and & uploaded it on the social media platform. Populary known as Superwoman, Lilly Singh is a Canadian YouTuber, comedian, talk show host and actress.

Singh was born in the Scarborough district of Toronto, Ontario, on September 26, 1988.  Her parents, Malwinder Kaur and Sukhwinder Singh, had emigrated from Punjab, in northern India, to Canada, soon after her birth. Singh makes comic sketches on day-to-day life. With more than 10 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, Lilly Singh aims to showcase Indian culture and characters inspired by her Punjabi heritage.

Forbes named her one of the 40 most powerful people in comedy in 2019. Singh has received an MTV Fandom Award, four Streamy Awards, two Teen Choice Awards, and a People’s Choice Award.

In 2016, Singh released her first film, a documentary chronicling her world tour, entitled A Trip to Unicorn Island. In March 2017, she released her first book, How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, which reached number one on the New York Times best-seller list.

Since September 2019, Singh acts as executive producer and host of the NBC Late night talk show, A Little Late with Lilly Singh, making her the first person of Indian descent to host a late-night talk show on a major American network.

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Hasan Minhaj

Minhaj comes from a Muslim family hailing from Uttar Pradesh, India

Minhaj perhaps won the hearts of all immigrants  in one evening when he spoke as the featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents Dinner. The Indian American continued to delight as a stand-up comedian and with his latest show, The Patriot Act, he remains one of the few political satirists who are effectively using humour to fill the gap between the society as it is and as it should be.

Minhaj comes from a Muslim family hailing from Uttar Pradesh, India. His parents, Najme and Seema, migrated to Davis, California, where Minhaj was born and raised.

Minhaj rose to popularity in 2014 with his work on The Daily Show. His first stand-up comedy special, Homecoming King on Netflix got rave reviews. Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj laid a new foundation for political comedy especially for an immigrant artist in America. From small performances to being on TIME’s list of 100 Most Influential People for 2019, he has travelled far and wide.

Russel Peters

Peters started his journey as a comedian in 1989

Over the past decade, Russell Peters, an India origin comedian from Canada, has become popular globally. The mind behind Netflix’s Almost Famous, Peters was born in Toronto on September 29, 1970. Peter’s parents belonged to West Bengal, India and had immigrated to Canada in 1965. He started his journey as a comedian in 1989. His achievements include winning a Gemini Award in 2008, appearances at various comedy festivals like Just For Laughs and David Frost Comedy Festival Special and talk shows on BBC TV.

His quick wit and improvisation skills have made his shows a sell out in many countries around the world. Russell is known for keeping his audience engaged with his humorous observations of different races and cultures including the Indian society.

In 2013, he was number three on Forbes‘ list of the world’s highest-paid comedians, and became the first comedian to get a Netflix stand-up special.

Hari Kondabolu

Kondabolu is one of the first Indian Americans to explore the stand-up comedy on stage

Hari Kondabolu can be credited to being one of the first Indian Americans to explore the stand-up comedy on stage. The actor, filmmaker and podcast host began his career as a stand-up comedian in Seattle during the early 2000s.

Kondabolu was born in Flushing, New York to Indian parents from Andhra Pradesh. He was brought up in New York. His big break came in 2006 when he was spotted performing at Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival by a booker for HBO’s Comedy Festival. He appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2007 and found instant success from then on. He performed a stand-up on the Late-Night Show with David Letterman. His many appearances on Comedy Central made him a popular name. He has also appeared on a number of British shows.

His stand-up comedy albums have been a success but one of Kondabolu’s most important contributions to the American comedy scene has been the documentary, The Problem with Apu, which he wrote, directed and starred in. The documentary examines how Apu Narsimhan from the Simpsons went on to stereotype Indians in America.


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