Foreplay with Komic Sutra
If you put an Indian-born, Dubai-raised comedian in an audience filled room with another Indian-born, Toronto-raised comedian what do you get? A saucy ménage à trois of a show that has a stroke of South Asian flavour with international foreplay, resulting in serious laugh-gasms. Comedians Nitin Mirani and Crystal Ferrier draw on the routine, mundane experiences of the average person to the realities of living with South Asian parents in the 21st century; 20 or 30-something years-old and single.
Laugh-out-loud and relatable, their jokes cross cultural boundaries while remaining poignantly Desi (South Asian). 28 year-old Crystal recounts her experience on an Air India flight, where she was offered salted or unsalted "peanus" by a stewardess. Opting for unsalted peanuts, Crystal imitates her mother raising her hands in joy and relief.
32 year-old Nitin re-enacts his mother in telephone conversation with him: "Nitin, beta [dear], what are you doing with your life? You're 32, take a girl's hand in marriage and settle down. You're doing this comedy-shomedy. You know what people are doing? People are laughing at you!" And later, as he talks about how women congratulate their pregnant friends with a touch on the tummy, with a soft tap on his crotch, Nitin says nobody congratulates men that way.
There's some pop culture-Desi infusions too. Playing on the South Asian cultural bias for long hair, Crystal delivers her mom's reaction to her haircut. "She used to look like that Beyoncé [with long hair]. Now she looks like that bugger, Justin Bieber!" And Nitin takes the audience on an international tour of accents from British, to French, to the Latin, deep-down and throaty singing, Enrique Iglesias.
No doubt, funny Desis Nitin and Crystal have got mirchi - chilli - with humorous punch. But I was curious to find out how their professional choices and sexual humour are received by their parents. Coming from a South Asian culture just like them and being a writer, I wanted to know: How do their parents feel about their career choices and how do they deal with it? Have their parents seen them perform on-stage? How have they responded to the racy, sexual jokes?
Nitin: On career choice
"Having done every “suitable job” possible, I realized that I was always attracted to being on stage and expressing myself as a performer. So, whether it was choreographing fashion shows, emcee'ing, acting or doing comedy, I knew that if I wanted to be myself, I could do it only on stage. My parents have been as supportive as they can be, but frankly, I even thank people who have not supported me. That was one of the major driving forces for me; to take on the challenge to not only accept a career which was almost unheard of, but also be accepted on a global level. And besides, as I always say, “Why should I try so hard to fit in when maybe I was born to STAND OUT?"
Crystal: On career choice
"My parents always wanted me to go for the typical Indian career choice - doctor or lawyer. I lost my dad in 2003, before he or even I knew that the arts and entertainment world were my calling. Even though my father had his own idea of what he wanted me to become, I'm sure what matters most is that I am happy. I can feel his presence when I do shows and I know he is so proud of me. My mother loves the idea that I speak of her to big crowds. It makes her feel like a celebrity herself!"
Nitin: On parents and sexual jokes
"My parents are within the first few rows for most of my shows. Frankly, the reason I am here is because my parents had SEX. Even though we come from the land of KAMA SUTRA, Indian parents are not so open about discussing and talking about sex. My show may be NAUGHTY but it is never OFFENSIVE. Luckily, my parents have always been supportive. This is because most of the things I say are observations of experiences which people sitting in the audience have gone through. So, even though I get your “OH MY GOD how can he say that?" reaction on a regular basis, it is always followed by "BUT HE IS RIGHT".
Crystal: On imitating her mom and sexual jokes
"I tell myself often that he [father] is with me when I am on stage, but I always wish I could see his face and his reactions to my performances. My mom thinks I'm hilarious, surprisingly, since I make fun of her so much. I think she realizes it is the truth, and that's what makes it that much funnier. At the end of the day, whatever I say, she will always be my mom. She also recognizes and is thrilled that I have the courage to follow my dreams."
Whether with full or partial parental support, it is refreshing to see Nitin and Crystal delivering the Komic Sutra brand of comedy to international audiences. More refreshing is that they are remaining true to their professional selves and the audiences whom they make laugh.
Seeking some more laughs myself, I put some randomly drawn outta-my-brain questions to Crystal and Nittin.
What BlackBerry or iPHONE ring tone do you wake up to in the morning?
Crystal: "I'm a comedian. I wake up when I want to. Alarms are for people with real jobs."
Nitin: "HAHA. Well, for someone who hates getting out of bed, right now my ring tone is the soundtrack of "SUPERMAN". I think just for kicks, everyone should try the soundtrack as an alarm tone once. It's quite funny."
If you could be a superhero, which one would you be and why?
Crystal: "At first I was gonna say Wonder Woman for obvious reasons, but I think I will say Super Man - because I look really cute in tights."
Nitin: Based on his Facebook status, I think I can conclude that Nitin would say Spiderman: "Driving in manhattan...looking at Empire State Building...now where did I keep my spiderman costume..."
What animal are you most similar to? How?
Crystal: "Why did I think of elephant first?! Oh yeah, all that cake.*Sigh*. I would say I'm like a monkey because I'm playful and fun. Yeah, so what? Monkeys are hairy. I'm just an Indian girl."
Nitin: "A Stallion or a Jaguar." The "how" or "because" is a mystery to me, but based on the Wikipedia descriptions below, maybe we can guess why?
"A stallion is a male horse that has not been gelded (castrated). Lucky, Nitin. Stallions will follow the conformation and phenotype of their breed, but within that standard, the presence of hormones such as testosterone may give stallions a thicker, "cresty" neck as well as a somewhat more muscular physique as compared to female horses, known as mares, and castrated males, called geldings. Nitin is a tall guy. The world (racetrack) is his gym.
Temperament varies widely based on genetics, and training, but because of their instincts as herd animals, they may be prone to aggressive behaviour, particularly toward other stallions, and thus require careful management by knowledgeable handlers. Maybe when he gets tired from crossing too many international time zones with other comedians while touring? I joke. However, with proper training and management, stallions are effective equine athletes at the highest levels of many disciplines, including horse racing, horse shows, and international Olympic competition. Nitin excelled in drama and sports in school.
The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere OR Dubai. The jaguar's present range extends from Southern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Maybe this has something to do with Nitin's future touring schedule?
This spotted cat most closely resembles the leopard physically, although it is usually larger and of sturdier build and its behavioral and habitat characteristics are closer to those of the tiger. Nitin often says "Raaaaarrrr!" like Arnold Schwarzenegger. While dense rainforest OR Dubai is its preferred habitat, the jaguar will range across a variety of forested and open terrain. He's performed in the Middle East, India, Hong Kong, the Maldives and Canada. It is strongly associated with the presence of water and is notable, along with the tiger, as a feline that enjoys swimming in hotel pools.
The jaguar is largely a solitary, opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush predator at the top of the food chain - aka the Burj Al-Arab (an apex predator). It is a keystone species, playing an important role in stabilizing OR disrupting ecosystems and regulating the populations of the animals it hunts OR the people in the cities he tours. The jaguar has an exceptionally powerful <insert "HUMOROUS"> bite, even relative to the other big, comedic cats. "
Komic Sutra was part of the South Asian festival, Masala!Mehndi!Masti! 2011 at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.