Desi comedians prep for funny show

The Desi Comedy Fest, in its fifth year, begins August 9 in the Bay Area


Ritu Jha


What started as a celebration of the independence of India and Pakistan and the bringing of the people of two countries together has become an annual festival popularly known as the Desi Comedy Fest.


The largest South Asian comedy festival in America, this year’s event, the fifth, will be held August 9-19 in nine cities in the San Francisco Bay Area


This year the Desi Comedy fest has partnered with The Times of India Group, which recently hosted the Gaana festival, giving the comedians’ hope of a wider reach.


“We are hoping to get bigger and better,” said Samson Koletkar, the festival’s founder and co-producer, adding that the group expects 5,000 people to attend this year’s 11-day event that runs till August 19 in nine cities – San Francisco, Berkeley, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Milpitas, Dublin, and Mountain View.


The idea for the festival was born in 2013, with two girls, two Pakistani and three Indians, comedians, all from the Bay Area, Koletkar told indica.


The festival will have segments for the first time in San Mateo, Dublin and Milpitas. This year, there are 32 South Asian comedians from all across the US, from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds The comedians are Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Iranian, Syrian-Mexican, Libyan, Japanese, and Filipino. Twelve are female comedians.


Koletkar has an interesting background himself, being born in Mumbai and raised Jewish.


Speaking about the festival’s growth, Koletkar said, “Members of the South Asian community in America come from different backgrounds and geographies. They also have varied opinions, so it’s fascinating now. Earlier we were afraid that if we did 11 nights in a row of South Asians comedians people would get bored. But it’s been amazing.”


The festival has expanded a bit beyond its South Asian origins.


“We have also included non-south Asians, of Middle Eastern backgrounds – so it keeps the festival interesting and diverse,” said Koletkar who aims to make the festival a global brand.


“What we are doing here is competing with the mainstream,” said Koletkar. pointing to the high-profile Clusterfest that draws people like Jon Stewart. Yet, Koletkar wants to make his festival one of the largest comedy festivals in the US.


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