I was rooting for Krish Mohan. The odds were stacked against him at the Saturday afternoon performance of An Indian Comedian: How Not To Fit In. A block-long power outage rendered the upstairs of the Argonaut unusable, leaving Mohan to perform in an ad-hoc venue on the back patio. It’s not easy being funny while contending with an audience melting in 92-degree heat, traffic noise and loud bar patrons. (Kudos to the Fringe staff for setting up a venue on the fly and keeping our water glasses full throughout the show).
Mohan, a stand-up comedian and improviser, gamely rolled through the challenging conditions without losing his affable charm, even as his writing flagged.
An Indian Comedian: How Not To Fit In is essentially an extended comedy set. There is no narrative arc, but rather a series of autobiographical anecdotes and observations all loosely connected by the theme of being “other”. Over the course of an hour, Mohan takes us through his experience of being an Indian immigrant in the U.S., covering heavy topics like racism, sex and religion with a light touch.
The show works best at the top, when Mohan relates his own encounters with racism with humor that rings true. It starts to falter as Mohan moves into well-trod areas like dating and sex without presenting any particularly new takes. Jokes about how terrible it would be to reincarnate as a Kardashian or sex-ed classes that are disappointingly un-sexy were moderately funny, but left me with the feeling that I’d heard them before.
I was already starting to lose interest when he gave the disclaimer that the next section hadn’t worked well in previous performances. Unfortunately, this performance was no exception. At this point, Mohan stopped talking about his own life and started to riff on police violence and racial bias. Without the lens of his personal experience to add perspective, it started to feel more like a lecture than a conversation. He lost me.
An Indian Comedian: How Not To Fit In
Written and performed by Krish Mohab
Details and tickets
I was shocked back to attention when the performance was interrupted by a seemingly intoxicated bar patron who was sitting within earshot of the makeshift stage. “I’m not laughing when my people are dying.”, she said. Awkward silence. Even Mohan, who is presumably used to hecklers, was thrown. It was a blunt and powerful statement. It provoked me and made me uncomfortable. It was the type of experience that I hope to have at the theatre, but rarely do. Unfortunately, it wasn’t part of the show.
For me, Mohan’s natural charm and skill as a performer couldn’t overcome the shortcomings in the material. But humor is subjective, and as I looked around at the audience I couldn’t help but note that many people were engaged and enjoying themselves. An Indian Comedian may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it may well be yours.
An Indian Comedian: How Not To Fit In written and performed by: Krish Mohan. Reviewed by: Amy Couchoud.