Vir Das is almost ready to take in New York and all of its charms. The Indian comedian will be performing his biggest show in the city to date with a headlining performance at The Town Hall for this year’s New York Comedy Festival on Friday, Nov. 8. After touring the globe and releasing a Netflix special (“Abroad Understanding”) as well as getting a role in the short-lived ABC comedy, “Whiskey Cavalier,” Das should feel assured about playing such a big and distinguished venue.
But when I spoke with him over the phone, the performer seemed a little nervous seeing the date on his calendar.
“I’ve never done Town Hall,” says Das. “It might be the most, you know, one of the most prestigious venues that I’ve ever done. So I’m decidedly nervous about it. I’m comforted by the fact that there’s a heavy Indian population in New York. And then New Jersey is right nearby. So I think I’m gonna be okay. You know, and last year I was in an American TV show, so that kind of changed the ratio of people coming. And I did a tour in America recently where I was able to do, you know, rooms like The Wilbur and sort of big comedy rooms as well and over the last 2 years it’s been refreshing to kind of see a 50/50 split of Indian audiences and have 50% American audiences and introduce them to my sort of an authentic Indian perspective.”
You are performing at The Town Hall for the New York Comedy Festival this year. Do you have any history with this festival?
I do! I kind of made my New York debut at Carolines. I think that was two years ago. And then after that, they booked me for the festival, I think it was two years ago or maybe last year. And booked me in the Kennedy Center, which none of us knew if that venue would fill up or not. I also shot my Netflix special partly in New York, my first Netflix special. So, it’s kind of nice to come back and do Town Hall. It’s nerve-wracking and I’m hoping people show up. Otherwise, I have braved a very long immigration line at JFK for nothing. So, I’m hoping they show up!
In your mind, what is more nerve-wracking: taping a comedy special or playing a big venue like Town Hall?
I think that this thing is much more nerve-wracking, you know what I mean? Because by the time you tape the special, the material is allegedly the best that it’s ever going to be. And that tells you that’s your final shot. But I’m coming into New York Comedy Festival with a new show, and the show is called “Loved” and it’s all about a comedian questioning whether he’s good at love or not and insights alone. So in that sense, it’s pretty universal with you. It feels lighthearted and the stakes are just how much fun you can make this evening. Not is the lighting in the camera working well. So, definitely just coming in and doing a large show, you get to play and mix and be organic. That’s always better.
So what is the answer to that question? Is a comedian good at love?
Well, no, not at all. We wouldn’t be comedians, would we? But it’s kind of spoiling [the] point of the show, was just me kind of sitting down and going, “Do comedians have the time nor the inclination or the mental capacity to practice real love?” And not just real romantic love. I mean, love for your parents. I mean love for your country, love for your dog, love for your best friend, love for family, love for grandparents, love for your wife. Because I’m this person who’s kind of a hopeless romantic and I’m all about these bold gestures. But none of them have any sort of practical application in a new life. So to be a comic that comes into town for a few days, has one bold gesture, then leaves - can you classify that as love? And that’s sort of the theme of the show. Because I feel like comedians, we either have time for no romance or a severe amount of very large, short-circuited, sporadic romance. And the real stuff has been faltered. The problem also delves into politics, you know, do you love your God, what kind of government do you love as well? But you know, love is the overarching theme.
NY Comedy Festival Presents Vir Das, The Town Hall, Nov. 8 at 7:00 p.m.