When I spoke with Indian comedian Vir Das about his Just for Laughs solo show, part of his Wanted World Tour, he assured me that it would have a story and he certainly delivered when he performed at the Olympia.
To a packed theatre with an audience so ethnically diverse it would have given Quebec Premier Francois Legault a stroke, Das put on a show that was as fearless as it was entertaining. As I waited for him to start, part of me worried that he would stick to safe subjects like family and relationship stuff peppered with comparisons of his own ethnic background to that of white, English-speaking Westerners, but that wasn’t what audiences got. It’s a tactic common among many so-called ethnic comedians, and thankfully Vir Das’ comedy is not like that at all.
If there’s one thing you get from Vir Das’, it’s that he’s absolutely fearless. Though he only spoke for an hour, he managed to cover everything from cannabis, to sex, to dogs, to freedom of speech, giving us – the audience, an education, while still keeping it funny.
No one, from Christians, to the British, to babies, to vegans, to his fellow brown people was safe from his mirth. One of his best jokes was about his anger at experiencing physical abuse by his school teachers, adding:
“I would never slap a teacher, their salaries do that,” a remark that resonates with educators in North America who continue to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions.
Das told me that he is first and foremost a comedian and throughout the show it showed. He was comfortable and friendly on stage, making me and so many others laugh and think while providing insights into his life story.
In many ways it didn’t feel like a standup show so much as a storytelling session with someone you know and love, and despite a few disrespectful types who tried to film the performance, the audience welcomed his approach. If I have one criticism of his performance, it’s that he would switch to speaking Hindi once in a while and didn’t always provide an English translation, something that was fine with the many East Asian audience members, but won’t work for English speakers. In the future he needs to translate all of it for English audiences or provide subtitles above or below the stage.
While JFL is over, Vir Das is sure to be back. Until he is, you can check out his Netflix specials