In 2016, a lot of political activism occurs on social media. Conversations about political issues take place on heated comment threads, where people are safe behind their smart phones and computer screens, sharing, but not really listening. Despite the anonymity that social media lends to individuals and the rapid rate at they can share thoughts and opinions, political conversations still lean toward being tense and uncomfortable. One person challenging people to be more open (and less argumentative) is Krish Mohan, a stand-up comedian based in Washington D.C. who will be gracing Champaign-Urbana with his presence and comedic skills with his show, “An Indian Comedian: How Not to Fit In,” at Soma Ultralounge next Wednesday, June 8 at 8pm.
Mohan’s comedy is rooted in his life as an immigrant and his perspective on American politics. Originally from India, Mohan and his family moved to the United States when he was 8 years old. From making fun of his mom, sharing with people what it’s like to grow up in the United States with a “very immigrant mother,” to a “Dane Cook phase in college,” Mohan hopes that his comedy can make people think about difficult issues, while also finding humor in them. In doing so, Mohan encourages people to become more open to having discussions, not arguments, about problems that are prevalent to the United States, but can also be seen around the world.
How does he do this, you ask? By applying the absurd to the mundane. During our conversation Mohan told me one of his earliest jokes was about how to make golf more interesting. His suggestions? Releasing wolves onto the course. I couldn’t argue with him on that point, all eyes would be glued to the television screen.
Any social issue, Mohan says, is already rooted in some degree of absurdity. For example, using comedy, Mohan is able to poke fun at people who accuse him of dating American women as a way to gain citizenship, while also explaining how difficult it is to actually achieve that goal. “It’s so hard to become an American citizen!” Mohan laughed to me. Like any of us, when he’s dating someone, Mohan is just happy that that person likes and wants to be with him. By spinning and warping stereotypes, he can write about these issues in a funny way. It is important to note though, that while Mohan wants you to laugh as his work, he does want you to come away thinking. One of Mohan’s former roommates once described him as, "a funny comic, but not a fun comic." This is an important distinction, but one that shouldn’t make you enjoy yourself any less when listening to his writing.
Despite years of his mother driving him to open mic’s and performing in high school, there came a time when Mohan didn’t think he was good enough for stand-up comedy or theater. A breakthrough for his development as a comedian took place when Mohan was studying graphic design in college. That is, when one of Mohan’s professors entered he classroom with the line, “I’m going to teach you how to think creatively.” Mohan was challenged to question everything and see that both graphic design and comedy come from creative places. Despite his mother’s displeasure that he talks about “private topics” (i.e. politics) in a very public way and his uncle’s description of his career as “non-traditional,” Mohan asserts that it would have taken him longer to discover his passion and ability to do comedy if he hadn’t gone to college. Therefore, as a recent college graduate, after deciding to pursue graphic design firm and comedy at the same time, Mohan eventually chose to put his energy into comedy full time.
And though his mother sometimes wishes he had done something more lucrative, and there was a time when Mohan didn’t think comedy really mattered, he’s made it his life now. Mohan’s life has a direction and a purpose and comedy does matter. Mohan is touring, and will be making a stop in Champaign-Urbana next week on June 8. You’ll find him at Soma Ultralounge at 8pm performing his show “An Indian Comedian: How Not to Fit In.”
To preview his work you can watch some snips and clips here.
You are also encouraged to investigate Mohan’s satire podcast “Fork Full of Noodles.”
In any case, stay tuned in to this funny guy as he continues to better his comedy and his writing. Mohan’s work can also be found on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc. Who knows, maybe you’ll see his name on Netflix someday.