The largest South Asian comedy festival in the US will take place from August 11-21, 2016 in 9 Northern California cities (San Francisco, Berkeley, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Union City, Livermore, Kenwood, and Sacramento) and feature 50 South Asian comedians from 9 countries including the US, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Yes, there’s a comedy scene in Bangladesh.
The festival producers are two Bay Area-based Indian-born comedians, Samson Koletkar and Abhay Nadkarni, who have both worked in tech in the San Francisco Bay Area. The two, who completed a 4-city comedy tour of India this past February, say their vision for the Desi Comedy Fest is to showcase the funniest South Asian comedians and create a unique live comedy experience for the South Asian diaspora. “There are Jewish comedy festivals, Arab comedy festivals, LGBT comedy festivals, so why not Desi?” asks Koletkar, who has toured all over the US and Canada with You’re Funny But You Don’t Look Jewish and the Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour and just returned from a 3-city tour of India at the end of June.
The idea for the festival, which is now in its third year, was born on August 14 and 15, 2013, Pakistani and Indian Independence Days, respectively, when Koletkar produced a couple of comedy shows featuring Pakistani and Indian comedians. The response to the shows was so positive and planted the seed for something larger: The Desi Comedy Fest. Koletkar and fellow Indian comedian, Abhay Nadkarni, talked about the cultural zeitgeist in the South Asian community, where usually introverted South Asians are taking to the stage and openly talking about their cultural quirks while also addressing immigration, race, and other personal experiences of the South Asian diaspora. That discussion spawned the idea for the festival, which they launched in 2014 with 11 San Francisco Bay Area comedians and 4 shows in 4 cities.
“Having performed with a lot of fellow Indian comedians at Indian-themed events, I often heard them talk about how they ‘Indianize’ their performance to cater to what they think the Indian audience wants to hear, that somehow the Indian audience is not sophisticated enough to appreciate their mainstream material, says Koletkar, the world’s only Indian Jewish comedian. “I wanted to provide a platform where I not only prove the comedians wrong but also provide the Desi audience an opportunity to see the diversity and poignancy of jokes that Desi comedians can provide.”
Festival co-founder, Abhay Nadkarni, observes, “Most South Asians in the Bay Area live in suburban areas, and it’s more convenient for us to go to them and do a comedy show in close proximity to where they live. Through the Desi Fest, our audiences can still enjoy quality stand up without having to spend too much time getting stuck in traffic.” Nadkarni adds, “There’s also a lack of diversity these days in entertainment and it creates needless competition amongst comics from South Asian minority groups. Our goal is to make the festival more collegial than competitive and grow the community as a whole.”
*Thursday August 11 @ 8pm: Cobb’s Comedy Club, San Francisco
*Friday, August 12 @ 8pm: Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz
*Saturday, August 13 @ 7pm: Muscardini Cellars, Kenwood
*Sunday, August 14 @ 7pm: Jean Runyon Theater, Sacramento
*Monday, August 15 @ 8pm: Docs Lab, San Francisco
*Tuesday, August 16 @ 8pm: Throckmorton Theater, Mill Valley
*Wednesday, August 17 @ 8pm: Freight & Salvage, Berkeley
*Thursday, August 18 @ 8pm: Montgomery Theater, San Jose
*Friday, August 19 @ 8pm: James Logan Center, Union City
*Saturday, August 20 @ 8pm: Bankhead Theater, Livermore
*Sunday, August 21 @ 7pm: Marines’ Memorial Theater, San Francisco
Festival trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEO-mTSEOnQ&feature=youtu.be