My mother is a Christian, my father Muslim, they hated each other so much, they decided that I would be Jewish!!” jokes Samson Koletkar on stage. Both his parents are Jewish, but he saw the humor when people he met couldn’t believe he really is a desi and Jewish.
A winner of the 2010 Asian American Theater Company Comedy Competition and hailed as the “Indian Seinfeld,” Koletkar has entertained audiences throughout the U.S., India, and Canada with his thought-provoking satire and witty observations. His “Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour,” features an Indian, a Jew, and an Indian Jew etching a funny sketch of individual experiences pertaining to politics, race, and religion.
Born and raised in Mumbai, Koletkar brings a refreshingly smart approach to comedy. With a master’s degree in computer software, he moved to San Francisco to work in IT, before making the switch to comedy. A program at the San Francisco Comedy College helped him understand the basics of standup in the U.S.
“When you crack a joke and no one laughs you can either tell yourself, ‘I am not funny,’ or you can go back home, edit the joke, and try it again until you get the laugh,” he says. Now, Koletkar produces and hosts the show “Comedy Off Broadway Oakland” every week, and has also toured with Pundits with Punchlines (a group of Indian stand-up comics), Make Chai Not War (hosted by Azhar Usman of “Allah Made Me Funny” fame), and Funatical Comedy Tour (comprising Middle Eastern/South Asian Muslim, Jewish, and Christian comedians).
In Mahatma Moses, Koletkar is the Indian Jew. The Indian in question is the fearless Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, the self-described nerd in the group, who says, “As the sole woman on the tour, I have the liberty to comment on gender, race, politics, science, social media, and culture from my perspective, without resorting to lowbrow topics that often turn off audiences.”
Lakshminarayanan’s resume boasts an MIT education, a South Indian up-bringing, and growing up in Alabama and Georgia, which imparts an intellectual and doubly Southern perspective to her act. She has toured nationally as one of Five Funny Females (a national touring stand-up comedy show with the most talented up and coming female comedians) and won first place in the 2007 “Battle of the Bay” competition.
Commenting on stage on growing up in Alabama, where she needed to explain, that in spite of being an Indian she didn’t come from a reservation, she says “Nah, not a casino-Indian, more like writing-the-software-for-the-casino Indian!”
Joe Nguyen, the Jew in the trio, also jokes about his own personal trials, exclaiming on mic, “Why do I do comedy? Hmm, I am a Vietnamese Jew…!”
Indeed, the opinionated depiction of a mixed-race, immigrant, and nerdy-brown daily life connects with the audience, making the Mahatma Moses tour a sold-out show repeatedly.
Koletkar himself draws upon his experiences since he first landed in the U.S. in 2000. How does a high-tech professional turn comedian? “There is no better place to start than open mics or any events that one can book some performance time at,” he says. “Before comedy clubs, I used to emcee events, where I would always add the funny to the announcements. It also helps to talk to other comedians, not just Indian ones, get to know them. Once you decide to take the plunge, the next job is to find venues where you can perform. In the SF Bay Area, a very good resource is www.sfstandup.com. If you are not so sure about jumping to an open mic right away, just invite a bunch of folks over and get up in front of them and do your thing—a friendly atmosphere to start with.”
Sound advice that no doubt has steered Koletkar into becoming a known name in the comedy world in just five years. His Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour, bringing the Indian, the Jew, and the Indian Jew together, promises an evening of laughter and cultural contemplation.
Saturday, Feb 12, 8 p.m. The Vosloh Forum, Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. $15 advance; $20 at door. (805) 861-1110. www.tour.Mahatma-Moses.com.