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Anirban Dasgupta: Polite provocation is a fairly good description of my material

By: Asjad Nazir

TRADING in a career as a corporate salesman for stand-up comedy proved to be a smart decision for Anirban Dasgupta. The Indian funnyman has since headlined comedy clubs and festivals, along with writing for leading streaming sites.

After several popular YouTube videos, he released his first stand-up special, Take It Easy, on Amazon Prime Video to great acclaim. The top talent has performed around the world, including at the prestigious Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow, and will make his London debut at Soho theatre from January 3-9.

Eastern Eye caught up with him to discuss comedy, his London show and being part of an exciting new generation of Indian stand-up stars.

What inspires you?

Freelancers like me need constant inspiration, and right now it’s my home loan.

What first connected you to comedy? I was working in sales in Mumbai in 2010 when London’s Comedy Store opened there. I spent all my salary on them, watched every show on offer and fell in love with the art form. A couple of years later, I did my first open mic, and have been doing it ever since.

What has been your most memorable moment so far?

I toured Western Australia for a month in 2022 for the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow, where five comics in two SUVs drove to 14 towns to perform shows there. I was the only international act on the tour, with a fantastic cast and crew. We went around doing big shows in beautiful, small towns all across the continent. Comedy takes you to many places, and this has been the most memorable so far.

How much are you looking forward to performing at Soho theatre?

I have been wanting to perform at Soho for a very long time and can’t wait to get there. I am also excited to be in London for the first time – every Bengali’s spiritual home.

What can we expect from your show?

My show is about life in India, three generations of my family, and the respective worlds they inherited. From baby jokes to crazy stories, it’s got something for everybody.

Why have you called the show Polite Provocation?

Because polite provocation is a fairly good description of my material. And I feel it’s a nice definition of what comedy stands for in general.

How do you feel about being on stage in front of a live audience?

I feel the happiest on stage. The fact that every night there’s a new audience to play to, and no two shows are ever the same is a beautiful experience.

Do you know if a joke will work before you get on stage?

Yes, I have a strong feeling about some jokes, but it still remains a process. For example, if I really like a joke, I’ll try to make it work in some way or form, even if it doesn’t land initially.

What, according to you, makes for great comedy?

My current obsession is my two-yearold kid. Babies are so cute and funny, mostly because they have no idea what’s about to hit them – life.

Who is your own comedy hero?

Norm Macdonald. I love everything he did and how funny came first for him at all times.

How do you feel being part of an exciting generation of Indian stand-up comedians making a mark internationally?

What a fantastic time to be doing comedy in India. Vir Das won the international Emmy, and Urooj Ashfaq won best newcomer at Edinburgh. We have a huge, thriving scene back home, with top comics and gradually more and more people are going to discover us internationally.

Why should we all come to your show?

Please come and experience authentic comedy from southeast Asia. I love performing this particular show – it’s full of jokes and surprises. It will be totally worth your time.

Anirban Dasgupta: Polite Provocation from Wednesday, January 3-Tuesday, January 9 at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE. www.sohotheatre.com

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