Hinglish Humor in Silicon Valley

Balancing a tech career and comedy using the Ikigai framework involves aligning your passions, skills, and purpose. Enter the Masala Comedy Club, an integral part of the diaspora, where laughter knows no boundaries and cultural diversity is celebrated, and whose members embrace the right and left brain. The Club is a space where Bay Area techies (by day) highlight the humorous nuances of their heritage in their leisure time.

A comedy collective based in Silicon Valley, Masala Comedy Club features stand-up comedy performances by desi comedians in Hinglish – Hindi, English, and somewhere in between. The club was founded in 2019 by film and theater actor, Rajiv Nema “Indori” along with his comedian friends Ritwik Verma, Abhay Paranjape, and Neha Goyal. “The goal was to bring NRI desi experiences to the NRI desi audiences,” says Nema.

A group of peple knell on a stage
Stand up commedians of the Masala Comedy Club (image courtesy: Masala Comedy Club)

A banjara troupe

Rajiv Nema, a gifted comedian and visionary, is the co-founder and driving force of the Masala Comedy Club. A self-described performer, and Naatak co-founder, he says that all he really needs is a stage and a mic. He and his banjara (gypsy) troupe bring their circus to wherever you are.

“I have been doing theater for almost three decades now and compared to that standup comedy gives a different level of creative satisfaction. Seeing a thought that germinated in your mind, blossom into a full-blown set after multiple iterations, and then seeing the audience thoroughly enjoy gives a real high! I see standup comedy as a one-man play whose writer, director, and actor are the same person.”

Humor in daily South Asian life

The Club offers a unique blend of humor that draws from the rich tapestry of cultures within the South Asian diaspora. Providing a platform for comedians from various backgrounds to share their unique perspectives, often highlighting the humorous nuances of their families or day-to-day lives. When I went to their performance, it was a riot! Some of it was in “sudh” (pure) Hindi and went a bit “bumper,” (desi for jokes didn’t land) for me. 

Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun and you often find yourself grinning from ear to ear at a shared joke with your neighbor or just because of the infectious laughter all around you. This celebration of cultural diversity fosters a sense of pride and unity, a feeling of being in a community, reminding us of our roots while embracing lives in our adopted country.

Clean, incisive comedy

Comedian Shiv Jayaraman adds that “performing with Masala Comedy Club has made me realize that there is an overwhelming support for clean and incisive comedy. After our shows, I am awestruck by the club’s reach and acceptance across the Indian diaspora. In one of our shows, our audience represented no less than 15 states of India and their age range was from 13 to 78. As a performer, what more can I ask for? I don’t think I would have this diverse an audience even if I performed in India.”

Some of the Club comedians and their specialties are: Ritwik (Bollywood family), Neha (India surprise visit), Ashok (unattractive men ending with beautiful wives), Abhay (LinkedIn), Aditya (Air India travel), Deepak (Gorakhpur guy with South Bombay girlfriend), Rajiv (wife doesn’t answer the cell phone), Snehal (teaching driving to girlfriend), Divya (women-centric POV on stories and history), Samay (dating in college), and Shiv (Indian grocery stores.)

A home for local talent

Masala Comedy Club embraces aspiring comedians and has become a nurturing ground for emerging talent, providing a stage for comedians to hone their skills, gain exposure, and connect with appreciative audiences. They have open mic days at India Community Center in Milpitas on Thursdays at 8 p.m. and provide mentorship and support helping countless comedians find their comedic voices while sharing their stories.

A powerful resource in the community, Nema and the founders at Masala Comedy Club agree that the goal goes beyond laughter; it’s about building bridges between communities. They recognize that comedy is a powerful tool for breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and promoting empathy. So, the next time you find yourself at a Masala Comedy Club, remember that you’re not just enjoying comedy; you’re participating in a celebration of cultural heritage and global togetherness.

Information about their next live shows and tickets, here.

In addition to live ticketed shows, they have performed opening acts for visiting comedians from India, presented at Corporate events, and hosted open mics, and improv workshops.

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...