There’s funny business going on in America and there’s a bunch of Indians who are getting good at it. There was a time when just about the only joker in the pack was cartoon character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, owner of the Kwik-E-Mart and a regular on The Simpsons.
In recent years, though, Indians have started populating the comedy circuit. Possibly the biggest Indian name in the stand-up world is Torontonian comic Russell Peters. He’s been on Comedy Central, appeared in a major role in the successful Indo-Canadian movie Breakaway and even has a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame. In an interview Peters said of that distinction: “I kept thinking they were kidding and were going to take it away from me. It’s great to be recognised by your own country and to be in the company that I’m with.”
Like Aziz Ansari, who has roots in South Carolina in the US and Tamil Nadu in India. Ansari, appears on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. But the highest profile Indian origin comic in TV is Mindy Kaling, who joined the US version of the show, The Office. Kaling played Kelly Kapoor, but over the years, her role evolved, as the show’s Executive Producer in its final season this year. Network television is suddenly crammed with Indians doing comedy. Like British-born Kunal Nayyar, who plays Rajesh Koothrappali in the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. And Rizwan Manji, another Indo-Canadian, who appeared on the breakthrough 2010 NBC comedy, Outsourced. As Manji said in an interview, “It was really the first time that a network took a chance on a show that featured five actors of Indian descent to star on must-see TV.” It’s also fitting that given this trend Mumbai-born Aasif Mandvi has become so visible on Comedy Central, appearing on the fake news programme, The Daily Show.