“For those who dare to dream, there is a whole world to win.”
In the past decade, comedy has taken the world stage by storm, and with that, a number of people from different diversities and different styles have approached humour from various angles. There is no doubt that the Indian entertainers in every space have been winning hearts worldwide. When it comes to the comedy scene, being born and brought up in a mixed culture makes the comedians come up with a wide range of material and courage which doesn’t limit them to a box and helps them face the growing competition in the world of entertainment.
With their sheer talent and confidence, the stand-up comedians of Indian origin have managed to leave a mark, they have worked their way up the ladder to reach where they are today. Some of these comedians are-
Azim Ansari is a well-known comedian and actor, best known for his role as Tom Haverford on the series Parks and Recreation. Ansari began performing comedy in New York City in 2000, while a student at NYU Stern. He is the creator of the famous Netflix series, Master of None for which he even won two Emmys and a Golden Globe award becoming the first Indian American and Asian American actor to get these awards for acting on television. His first comedy show named Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening was released in 2010 and he has several Netflix comedy specials to his name which include, Right Now, Buried Alive, and Nightclub Comedian. His comedy special Right Now was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. When it comes to blue comedy, surreal humor, and satire, Aziz Ansari is a name to think of.
Lilly Singh is a world-famous comedian, actress, and YouTuber, who came to prominence after she started her YouTube channel in 2010, under the pseudonym “IISuperwomanII”. In 2017, she went on to win several awards like People’s Choice and Steamy Award. Lilly Singh is one of the most powerful women in the world and was also named one of Vogue India’s Women of the Year in 2019. She also became the first person of Indian descent to host an American major broadcast network late-night talk show named, A Little Late With Lilly Singh, where she chats with many celebrities and maintains a humorous and entertaining tenor. Lilly Singh is an example of how sheer hard work can turn your dreams into reality.
Vir Das has a way of not only astonishing the audience with his brilliant storytelling but also enlightening them by revealing some hard-hitting facts. After beginning his career in stand-up comedy, he moved to Hindi cinema starring in many successful Bollywood movies. Das became the first Indian comedian with a comedy special on Netflix after the release of his Netflix special ‘Abroad Understanding’. He was also named one of Variety’s “10 Comics to Watch in 2017”. He was also nominated for his comedy special, Vir Das: For India, on Netflix at the International Emmy Awards. Das has made a name in the global world of comedy by performing at many festivals, talk shows, and starring in various American series. He is known for his compelling messages in a comical form, his jokes are relevant in more ways than one can imagine, especially with generations across X Pats.
We can’t talk about comedy without talking about Hasan Minhaj. After working as a stand-up comic and appearing in minor roles, he came to prominence with The Daily Show as its senior correspondent from 2014 to 2018. His Netflix debut comedy special, Homecoming King was a big hit and received great reviews. Minhaj’s show “Patriot Act” on Netflix revolves around socio-political topics which bring an acute and nuanced perspective to global and political news and won two Peabody Awards and two Webby Awards. In 2019, he was also listed among Time‘s 100 most influential people in the world. Best known for his observational comedy on current affairs, news, and politics, Minhaj is a global comedy star.
Russell Peters is a known face in the global comedy scene. He started his career in 1989 when he started performing in Toronto. He went on to win several awards like Gemini Award, Peabody Award, and even an International Emmy Award. In 2013, he was number three on Forbes‘ list of the world’s highest-paid comedians and became the first comedian to get a Netflix stand-up special named Notorious. He has also featured in many Hollywood movies and series and is best known for his dark comedy, satire, and insult comedy.
There are very few in the world who haven’t seen the famous CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory and those who have knows Kunal Nayyar, who portrayed the role of Raj Koothrappali on the show. From living in London, India, and America, Nayyar’s experiences helped him have a wider outlook on how he approached his roles. Nayyar has also appeared in various other movies like Trolls, Dr. Cabbie, Ice Age: Continental Drift, etc. In 2015 and 2018, Forbes listed him as the world’s third-highest-paid television actor. Starring in one of the most popular comedy shows in the world, Kunal Nayyar has come a long way and all we can say is that he is a big bang in the comedy world!
Vera Mindy Chokalingam known professionally as Mindy Kaling started her career when she was an intern on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. She started performing stand-up comedy as she felt like, her family background had a dual perspective that was never seen on TV before. Mindy has appeared on various television shows like The Office, Champions, and The Mindy Project, which she created herself. She has starred in many famous Hollywood movies and won has many awards to her name. In the last decade, Kaling has managed to become a household name in the entertainment industry who specializes in sketch comedy, satire, and improvisational comedy.
Hari Kondabolu is a well-known stand-up comedian who has been doing comedy since his college days. He gained recognition when he started performing at various festivals and got his big break when he performed at HBO’s Comedy Festival. He has made many television appearances on notable shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show with David Letterman and Comedy Central. Kondabulu’s comic style mostly centers around social issues like racism, poverty, LGBT, and rejection of South Asians seen in media. He has also been part of many films and series and is a creator of the 2017 documentary film The Problem with Apu. Hari Kondabulu’s intelligent and observational comedy style comes with a great message while also leaving you in splits of laughter.
Kal Penn is an actor, comedian, author, and former White House staff member in the Barack Obama administration. Penn has been in the limelight for various reasons. He has worked as a successful actor in many movies and television series. In addition to his role on the House, he is best known for his role as Kumar Patel in the comedy series Harold & Kumar. Kal Penn is a well-known name in America and all over the world for his versatile talent.
Aasif Mandvi is a famous comedian and actor who started his career by performing at Walt Disney World Resort and began appearing on The Daily Show in 2006 and became a regular correspondent of the show in 2017. He has since worked in numerous television shows and movies as an actor and a writer. His experiences of moving and living in different countries have given his writing style a different perspective, he is best known for blending personal and political situations in his comedy
The list is incomplete without mentioning the names of the emerging comedians who perform routine tours in different countries and in no time will crack the world stage of comedy.
Amit Tandon is a famous stand-up comedian well known for his comic timings and punches. He has performed over 700 shows across the globe and is also responsible for bringing the popular comedy face-off show, Fight Comic to India. His comedy is centered around everyday life and he is noted for his hilarious and clean comedy, making him ideal for crowds of all ages. He also hosted a weekly show “Sannu Ki” on Radio City91.1 and was the first comedian featured on NDTV’s Rising Stars of Comedy. A regular at the ‘Best of Stand-up’ lineup at The Comedy Store, he was the runner-up at ‘CEOs Got Talent’ on CNBC TV 18, the well-known humorist and professional stand-up comedian, also known as ‘The Married Guy’, Tandon is an emerging star in the global comedy sector.
Atul Khatri is a veteran on the Indian comedy circuit. He started his comedy career at the age of 43, whilst still being engaged in his family business. He was the only Indian to perform at the Hong Kong International Comedy Festival in 2014. Once rated among the top Indian comedians by CNN-IBN, Khatri is also the winner of the CEO’s Got Talent Season 1. He is also a favorite among the corporate audience and people from high up the ladder, he was one of the three finalists at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival held in 2012. Also acclaimed for his hilarious YouTube videos, he’s one of the most successful comedians in India who brings a fresh perspective through the eyes of a 40+ year-old. He performs routine global tours in different countries and is loved for his surreal humor, wit, and wordplay.
Zakir Khan is a popular stand-up comedian who rose to fame by winning “India’s Best Stand Up Comedian competition”. His popularity in India is no secret, but he is well known for his improv comedy and sarcasm in different parts of the world. His comedy specials Haq Se Single and Kaksha Gyarvi on Amazon Prime Video were instant hits. He was a judge on season 2 of the famous show “Comicstaan” and created the Indian comedy series “Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare”, playing the protagonist himself. When it comes to comedy, Zakir Khan has his own signature move. With his Sakth launda approach, he targets the youth, the dialogues he delivers point out the minor situation we all have gone through especially when it comes to love and relationships. If you’re a Zakir Khan fan, you can relate to his entertaining, “Hmm.. Achaa.. Okay” sequence.
Kapil Sharma is a comedy genius who has a way of lighting up the room just with his casual humour. Sharma’s comedy show, “The Kapil Sharma Show” which airs every weekend on Sony is a big hit among Indians but his fame is not only known in India but also in the UK, making him one of the most viewed comedians in India and the UK. The one-of-a-kind comedian has done several comedy tours in different countries and is loved by the audiences for his comic sketches and sarcasm.
Papa CJ is one of the most influential comedians globally who has been awarded ‘Asia’s Best Stand-up Comedian’ and ‘India’s Best Stand-up Comedian’. He was one of the top ten out of over 3000 international comedians, on the US TV show, ‘Last Comic Standing’. With sell-out shows across five continents, he is highly acclaimed for his power to keep the audience enthralled. After completing his MBA from the University of Oxford and having a successful corporate career, he quit his job and became a full-time comedian. In 2009 he became the first Indian comedian to be invited to perform at the Just for Laughs festival in Canada. Forbes Magazine called him “The global face of Indian stand-up.” and Huffington Post, New York called him “A world-class global comedian. Well known for his performance in the corporate environment, Papa CJ is known for his sarcastic punch lines and unique take on corporate culture.
“One of India’s top 10 comedians” (Times of India), Sorabh Pant has done over 2000 shows in 100 cities across 12 countries. He has done over 400 corporate events in a 13-year career. He has toured through India, South East Asia, the U.S, and Canada and also became the first Indian comedian to have his own show in China, Singapore, and Bangladesh. He has two standup specials on Amazon Prime Video – My Baby Thinks I’m Funny (2017) and Make India Great Again (2018). He’s also an author and has written 3 novels, as well as 1 non-fiction book. In 2012 – he was listed No. 1 in the top 30 most interesting Twitter users in India. He is the founder of East India Comedy – one of the country’s biggest comedy collectives. He has been highly appreciated by audiences and fellow comedians; Rob Schneider called him “Very Loud! Killed in every city”, Wayne Brady said, “He is the second brilliant Indian comedian I’ve seen, after Russell Peters.” He is also a columnist and has written columns for The Times of India, Mid-Day, Hindustan Times, and has a weekly column with Deccan Chronicle and Asian Age, amongst others. When it comes to comedy, there’s nothing Sorabh cannot do.
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