Vir Das entered the world of entertainment with the dream to become an actor after studying drama, and within a few years became a popular standup comedian, at a time when the whole wave of standup was just gaining visibility in pop culture. As his new show “Jestination Unknown” is all set to release on an online streaming platform, Vir says there is no specific genre of comedy he focuses on, apart from playing himself like a “fool” because that’s what he feels in real life.
While many comedians tried to create a space with political satire, community jokes and the like, Vir does not stick to a particular genre of comedy.
Asked about his favourite genre, Vir told IANS: “I feel comfortable when I get to look like a fool in a situation because that is what I think I am in life (smile). In our show, I get bitten while doing Kung Fu, I am a failure trying to do Kalaripayattu and I fall from the camel while riding! Wherever I get a chance to fool around, I am comfortable, instead of looking cool! That’s my thing!”
Living at a time where many artistes have been targeted for opinions on politics and jokes on communities, does Vir keep a check on where his humour comes from?
“As a performer, as an artist, I owe the audience three things — humility, effort and variety. There is a large and diverse audience coming to my show, and it is my responsibility to offer something to every group of people from different age groups, different ideology and cultures. So, I should have everything for all of them. Also, I should not talk down to the audience, I should be respectful to my audience who are making the effort to come and watch me on a show, especially a live gig,” explained Vir.
“Jestination Unknown”, streaming on Amazon Prime Video October 18 onward, has Vir visiting six Indian cities including Jodhpur, Ladakh and Mysore along with fellow comedians including Shruti Seth, Anu Menon and Ashwin Mushran to perform live.
So, which city has the best audience for comedy? “It really depends on the city or the place we are travelling to. Let me tell you, in every place, things are different. When we were in Punjab, it’s best to tell jokes with honesty because we laugh at things that are real and honest. In Ladakh, locals told us that they are the happy people and they were coming to laugh. So, for a comedian, nothing is more positive that people coming in with the mind to laugh,” said Vir.
He added: “On the other hands, in Mysore, when we interacted with local artists, they said the city was all about originality — whether it is Mysore sandalwood, Mysore pak sweet or Mysore silk. So, people love to celebrate things that are new and original. The same applies for their sense of humour as well,” he added.
Asked what the best part of the show was, he replied: “This is a show in which I got a chance to travel to many corners of India, and I was paid to do so. This is like my low budget ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara‘ (laugh)!”
Apart from standup comedy, Vir has appeared in films such as “Love Aaj Kal”, “Badmaash Company”, “Delhi Belly” and “Go Goa Gone”. He also did web shows such as “A Broad Understanding” and “Losing It” for Netflix.
He said that acting was always in his mind, to explore as a performing artist.
“The initial plan of my life was to teach Shakespeare because I did my Bachelor’s in Drama. I wanted to be an actor. But life has its own plan and acting and standup comedy are different things. Acting is a very collaborative process and standup is a very solo journey, where writing and performing are individual things as opposed to acting, where a team of people are working to make me look in a certain way. There, I am part of a larger creative vision. I am happy with both the creative processes,” Vir shared.
Starting his career in 2007, has he reached the point of success he dreamed of? “I am still nowhere close to where I want to be. This show took me two years to let out. I want to do that in six months next time. Time has changed and the audience is receptive towards new ideas. Now I am at that point where I have a production house that gets funding to execute new ideas. I have a good relationship with the (OTT) platforms and I feel I am at a good position now, to introduce new ideas to my audience,” Vir signed off.