DCF co-founder Samson Koletkar (aka Mahatma Moses) says this all started nearly ten years ago in the aftermath of the coordinated series of terrorist attacks across Mumbai in 2008. Koletkar, who grew up in Mumbai felt helpless about the mistrust, anger and ill-will. Wanting to do something, he used his comedic genius to stage a couple of shows. “The least I can do is get Indians and Pakistanis in the same room and make them laugh.” Thus, was born the Desi Comedy Fest, a showcase for South Asian talent, that he started with fellow comic, Bengaluru born, Abhay Nadkarni.
It started small, but over the years it grew steadily in terms of audience size and a diverse roster of talent onstage. Featuring a revolving cast of more than 30 performers from across the United States, the DCF featured comics with roots in countries far beyond its focus on India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Over the year’s comics and stand-up artists from Iranian, Syrian-Mexican, Libyan, Japanese and Filipino backgrounds joined the line-up.
This year the majority of the comics participating in the festival are American-born, and all reside in the United States. Nadkarni and Koletkar make it clear that’s due to the one-two punch of the Trump Administration’s travel ban focused on several Muslim-majority countries, and the increasing hassle and expense of obtaining visas.
Desi Comedy Fest 2020: http://www.desicomedyfest.com
JAN 22, 2020, 8:00 p.m.– 9:30 p.m. Marine’s Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94102
JAN 26, 2020, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525 Los Coches St, Milpitas, CA 95035
This year’s lineup includes:
Asif Ali is a handpicked favorite from some of the top comedy bookers working today. From his standup in the U.S. and internationally, to many outstanding theatrical roles, he is one of the fastest rising entertainers in the business over the past 7 years in the making. When he is not on stage or touring with his improv group, you can catch him on hit shows such as ABC Modern Family, Netflix Arrested Development, Marvel Agents of Shield, and on Comedy Central. Currently, he is the star on the new hit TV show NBC Mr. Robinson with Craig Robinson.
Raj Sivaraman is a writer, comedian, and unfunded research scientist. He has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and hosts the monthly show Monotony!, where comedians talk about their weird, trivial obsessions. Raj has performed in comedy festivals around the country and presented his research at just as many science conferences around the world. He has also written for Comedy Central, and was one of the main writers and performers for Boston News Net. His 2012 sketch album “In Case of Emergency” is available in several boxes under his bed.
Isha was recently featured in HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival and runs Affirmative Reaction, Boston’s only stand up show dedicated to Asian and Asian American voices. She was also a runner up in ImprovBoston’s Stand Up Throwdown and performed at PIT’s Femme Fest. Isha is also an accomplished improviser and sketch comedian. When she’s not doing comedy, Isha likes to attend Moana themed spin classes and work as a user experience researcher.
Kasha Patel was listed on Thrillist magazine’s “Best Undiscovered Comedians in the US”. She primarily focuses her jokes on her life as an Indian-American and science, producing one of the only science-themed comedy shows in the nation. Kasha presented a TEDx talk called “Sneaking Science into Stand-Up” where she shares a series of surprising revelations pulled from her analysis of more than 500 of her stand-up jokes. In 2016, she hosted an award-winning mini-series for NASA TV highlighting Earth science fieldwork.
Richard quit tech to do stand-up… oops! He started performing in San Francisco and is now based in Los Angeles. He talks about his experience as a first generation Indian immigrant, mental illness, and why he left Silicon Valley. He has a Half Hour Special “Missed the Window” on Dry Bar Comedy and was featured on NDTV’s “Stars of Comedy”. His albums “Live in San Francisco” and “Live at The Setup” available on Spotify. He headlined opening week at Doug Stanhope’s club Chuckleheads in Bisbee, AZ.
Gibran Saleem was born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia in a Pakistani household. While studying Psychology at New York University he was handpicked as an MVP nominee on the national TBS Rooftop Comedy College Competition and was a 2-time recipient of the UCB diversity scholarship. Gibran is the only comedian to ever be selected, as a finalist for both the Stand-Up NBC and NBC’s Late Night program. Gibran has been featured on MTV, TV Land, Popcorn Flix, PBS, CUNY TV, VOA, Elite Daily, and Cosmopolitan and performed his stand-up television debut on Gotham Comedy Live for AXS TV. He was the focus of an international documentary on NHK TV called Asian Dreamers: Brown is Funny and has been featured in festivals nationally across the states as well as winning 1st place in the Hoboken comedy festival.
Abhay is a comedian/writer/producer that moved from South-India to South Central Los Angeles for grad school. Dodging bullets en-route to grad school armed him with plenty of stories and stand up was his only catharsis for combating culture shock. His act is an eclectic mix of his experience as an immigrant in the US. He’s appeared on CBS, Audible’s “America from Abroad with Rob Delaney”, been featured in The Huffington Post, SF Chronicle. He is also the co-creator of “The Setup”, a weekly comedy show featured as one of the best underground comedy shows in San Francisco by Thrillist and Timeout.
Samson Koletkar was born in Mumbai and raised Jewish. Growing up in the world’s most crowded city, he spent most of his childhood years burning the midnight candles for earning a Master’s Degree in Computer Software, thereby fulfilling his parent’s dreams. He was named “10 Best Indian-Origin Comedians of the Last Decade” by BookMyShow and “10 Indian Comedians Who Found Success in the U.S.” by Silicon India, and SF Chronicle published a cover article on him “India-born stand-up builds comedy utopia in Oakland”.