'The Funny Indian,' Rajiv Satyal, To Tour India, Spread Message Of Religious Harmony
FAIRFIELD, Ohio (AP) – An Ohio-born standup comedian who bills himself as "The Funny Indian" will find out whether people in his ancestral homeland agree.
Rajiv Satyal, who is Hindu, will tour India with an Indian-American Muslim and one other performer on a Jan. 4-17 trip organized by the U.S. State Department. Their comedy show "Make Chai Not War" will include messages of diversity and religious harmony, with a measure of diplomacy.
His routines often include jokes about being Indian-American, he says.
"I'm pretty much going to do my act. But the tone changes," Satyal said. "If I do a lot of Indian jokes with an Indian audience, it's a 'you guys know what I'm talking about' thing. Whereas, if I'm in Alabama, it's more explanatory."
Satyal and Azhar Usman of Chicago founded the "Make Chai Not War" show. A third Indian-American, Hari Kondabolu of the New York borough of Queens, will join them on the tour. The three also will conduct comedy workshops while on the trip.
Satyal said comedy can help bridge differences.
"It's cool to be able to go to India because that's where a lot of religious strife has been happening," he said. "We're not even really religious on stage. We might do some religious jokes, but it's more just bringing people together."
The 35-year-old native of Hamilton, Ohio, honed his comedy while working for consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co., in a regular column for a company-produced newsletter. He also appeared in comedy clubs.
In 2006, he left the company and moved to Los Angeles.
Before the tour, Satyal has been spending time with his family in the northern Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield. He graduated from Fairfield High School, whose sports teams' nickname is Indians, for Native Americans.
"I guess I really was a Fairfield Indian," Satyal said.