The Predistribution of Wealth

I went back home to Kentucky for Thanksgiving, and I’ve been quietly biting my lips as I hear from friends of my family how concerned they are about Obama.  Obviously, since they’re friends I don’t think I can chalk it up to racism, so my next assumption is that they watch Fox News and have found themselves trapped in an echo chamber.

I just thought I’d make a little point about those people griping about Obama taxing the rich and being a socialist.  There is a very strange misconception that poor people are lazy and deserve to be poor.  This is in fact not true.  Many poor people have to work 2-3 jobs and experience considerably more stress than rich people, which prevents them from ever becoming middle-class.

People gripe about government redistribution of wealth, but taking taxes from the wealthy and creating government projects that pay poor people a decent living wage is really the best approach to rebuilding the middle class.  Don’t believe me?  Here are a couple of arguments in favor of this approach:

  1. Government jobs increases the private-sector economy.  People have increased disposable income and buy more stuff, which improves the private sector.  Also, most R&D arguably starts off by government subsidies or grants.
  2. Austerity measures increase social unrest, tax hikes do not. Another great argument to support taxing the rich.  Primarily because they will not be affected by it.
  3. Income over $75,000 is sufficient for happiness.  There is conflicting evidence over the benefit of having much more than this, but the fact that $75K is enough for happiness seems to be a reachable bar.

Taking these three points, it seems clear that supply-side economics is not the approach we should be taking to improve the economy.  We don’t need to make the “job-creators” richer, we need to augment the wealth of the poor.  If not from a social justice standpoint, from an economic one.  There’s a series of graphs that supports this argument (feel free to have a look here).  But, I modified a graph of my own using the $75,000 benchmark for happiness and Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data to come up with a “Happiness Index”.

I wanted to see how income changed over time and how many people are happy now compared to ~35 years ago.  The formula I used is:

Average income is the average income in each income bracket (bottom 20%, top 1%, etc.), and Year Adjustment is the CPI value of any year divided by the CPI value of 2012 to get a sense of what $75,000 was equivalent to in 1979 (which may or may not be the same level of happiness).

So, plotting the happiness index over the last 33 years gives you this figure:

As you can see, the poor was always below 0 (i.e. unhappy), but since 1979 you see a slow dragging of the middle class into the unhappy zone (i.e. below 0).  As of 2005 (the last year I have data on this from the Congressional Budget Office), more that 50% of America is unhappy, compared to only 20% in 1979 (a year marked by recession and Iranian embassy invasion).

Obviously, this is not a true metric of happiness, but based upon only the happiness brought about by wealth 35 years ago to today, much more Americans are unhappy than before.  And if you look at the top of the graph, the top 1% is reaping the benefits while the bottom 50% is dragged into misery. The 49% between the two? They’re relatively static, so this is truly a battle of the rich vs. poor.  But in this case, it is the VERY rich (~500K and above) vs. “the middle class” (60K and below).

If the rich really are the “job-creators”, let’s get to making with the jobs, Ted DiBiase.  Otherwise, it’s about time those bastards paid their fair share.

My Letter to Republicans

Hey Guys,

Look, it’s been a rough couple of days.  I can sympathize.  I felt the same in 2004, when the Democrats had a out-of-touch, vanilla plutocrat from Massachusetts that I didn’t really care about. All I wanted was to make sure Bush wasn’t given another 4 years to destroy the country.

But the good news is that Kerry’s failure led to a revitalization of the Democratic Party, and – who’d a thunk it? – a black president!  Too soon? Ok, I’m sorry.

Though I’m sure you probably hate her, Rachel Maddow had a nice little piece about how you need to turn your act around for the betterment of the country. And I’m with her. While I don’t agree with your current policies, I’d like to see an alternative to what the Democrats are offering (some of which I don’t agree with).

So, here’s my advice to change your platform and make you potentially electable again:

  1. STOP DOUBTING FACTS.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  You said Nate Silver was wrong, and didn’t offer any evidence to prove his method wrong.  I know that’s really wonkish and doesn’t make for good TV, but at least Nate Silver’s logic is understandable.  He interprets and averages polling quite rigorously and scientifically.  If you’re going to come with an alternate interpretation that is better, PROVE IT.  That’s science.  You believe the most simple, logical explanation of something until someone offers something better.  You can’t just dismiss people because their facts are unpalatable.  This also applies to climate change, evolution, and the female reproductive system.
  2. STOP BEING RUN BY SELF-INTEREST GROUPS. That’s great that you don’t believe in taxes.  Actually, I don’t know of anyone that likes taxes.  You’d win tons of elections with your anti-tax platform. The problem is we need government to do things.  The only way we can pay for the government to do things is TAXES (or selling ourselves to China).  So, don’t sign dumb pledges to rich people where you will never raise taxes, when you know that people need the government to do things like build infrastructure, defend the country, etc.  You can’t say Obama supporters are lazy and want stuff, because EVERYONE wants stuff.  I don’t want to have to spend 30 minutes to go through a phone tree when my house is on fire to reach Fire Department Customer Service, only to discover that I don’t have a “fire prevention” plan.  It’s a much nicer way to realize that every time I pay 6% sales tax, I know that I can call 911 and know someone will be there promptly.  There is a universal expectation that government will provide some services, yet nobody wants to pay for it with taxes.  Democrats acknowledge this, and made the political decision of taxing the rich.  You need to figure out a way to keep taxes without cutting things people want, otherwise you’ll never get elected.
  3. BE CONSERVATIVE.  The traditional conservatives were focused on America and didn’t want to get involved in foreign wars (some might say isolationist).  The alternative to Obama’s drone strikes in Waziristan is not beating your chest and saying “MORE DRONE STRIKES!!!”  The world needs a Republican Party (or any party) that says “Maybe we don’t need to keep bothering other people because we’re paranoid of terrorists?”  Also, since we are on the precipice of an entitlement crisis, a drastic slashing in military spending might just be the solution that makes everyone happy.  We spend about $700 billion on defense spending, but only $60 billion on education.  Why don’t we cut the military budget by $500 billion (still $50 billion more than what China spends), and increase education and research by another $50 billion.  That’s a net $450 billion cut that will not hurt any entitlements, and won’t raise any tax cuts.  The world doesn’t want to be policed by the US, and we should behave accordingly, so a $450 billion cut would reflect this.
  4. LEAD ON EDUCATION.  I know you support charter/private schools, but so do the Democrats. And I think this is where they fail.  Unlike public schools, charter schools can cherry pick what students they have, so any progress seen in these schools is misleading.  How can Republicans offer a bold strategy to improve education? Eliminate all federal subsidies to charter/private schools and give them to public schools proportionally to student enrollment.  Also, don’t close schools because they “perform” poorly on tests. Provide those schools with the resources necessary for success (on a case-by-case basis, determined by principal or superintendent, whichever is most familiar with the school’s issues).  There is no such thing as a “bad” teacher, just like there’s no such thing as a bad student.  They both just need help to get better.  Finally, any student can go to any school they want.  Obama’s support of charter schools is hurting Democratic support from teacher’s unions.  Time for Republicans to tap into this market.  Oh yeah, you also doubled the education budget.  Suck on that Democrats.
  5. STOP RUNNING CANDIDATES WHO LIKE TO TALK ABOUT RAPE.  Most Americans believe abortion should be legal.  Even if you don’t believe it, the alternative is back-alley abortions or babies born in unfavorable situations.  We don’t need more children born behind an 8-ball (of cocaine). If you’re poor, having a baby that you can’t afford is not going to help your situation, nor is the baby going to grow up happy, healthy, and well-adjusted.  Being pro-life is like being religious, it’s an idea that’s best kept to yourself.
  6. STOP PREVENTING MINORITIES FROM VOTING.  It just makes you look like a dick. Just let people vote.
  7. ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ARE PEOPLE TOO.  You’re keen on getting the Latino vote, so stop punishing people for seeking the American dream.  Fine, they didn’t follow the proper channels to come to America, but they’re here now.  They most likely came because of policies we’ve enacted in Latin America to screw over their families, anyway.  The least we could do is give them a chance to make it.  And if they’re troublemakers (e.g. MS13, LA Kings, Justin Bieber) we can kick them out.
  8. GAY PEOPLE DON’T RUIN INSTITUTIONS. They just make them more expensive.  Stop saying homosexuals “shouldn’t do this” or “have these rights”. They’re people.  Even if you think it’s a choice, it’s one that they seem keen to make (among others – voting Democrat).  If you’re so keen on the institution of marriage, why don’t you do some legislating against all those heterosexual people getting divorced?  That seems to be ruining the institution more than two people being committed to each other.  When you’re against gay marriage, you’re against love.  Also, think of all the jobs you’ve created in the wedding industry by letting gays get married.
  9. DON’T BE A SORE LOSER.  I know it sucks to lose, but you don’t need to try and prevent anything from happening in Congress because you’re in the minority.  Compromise on ideals is what makes the country stronger.  I would argue that Obamacare is a product of compromise, as it’s not the true public health care plan I would like America to have, even if you don’t like it either. However, it’s a definite improvement to no health care reform and everyone going to emergency rooms for colds.

Look, I know you’re bummed out about this, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  You will survive, but you just have to adapt. It’s a thing called evolution.  I know you don’t believe in it, but you should look into it. While you’re at it, check out everything else that you’ve missed while you’ve had your head in the sand about the last 12 years listening to people who will happily mislead you for their own profit.  Best of luck,

Raj Sivaraman

 

Lessons I Learned From My Stupid, Boring, Losing Fight with a Non-profit Community Theater

If there’s one thing I can’t tolerate, it’s unfairness. Well, that and people who take the elevator to the second floor (but that’s a tirade for a different time). I never wanted to write this post, but recent events have forced my hand. NOTE: It’s long, and I hope you have the patience for it, but it’s the whole truth (if overly dramatic). If you know the story, skip to Lessons Learned portion.

I recently got into a spat with a non-profit community theater, which ultimately led to me getting banned from the theater. That may sound strange, as I don’t seem the type to kick old women out of their wheel chairs or maliciously steal jigsaw puzzle pieces, so what could I have done to get banned from a non-profit community theater?

It all started one Sunday night when I was doing a standup show at the theater. About 10 minutes before the show was supposed to start, the technician and an intern at the theater gathered all the comedians and informed us that we were going to be recorded for a “podcast”. They didn’t really know why or what it was about, but just that all our sets would be recorded and posted online at the theater’s website. Most of the experienced standups were disquieted by this, and one asked “Can we opt out?” They responded “We could probably edit you out if you don’t want to be in it.”

Then, the managing director of the theater (let’s call him Pete Rose), comes in and says, “Hey, we’re recording your sets, and going to put your clips online. It’ll be just like Rooftop,” and then left without answering any questions. Rooftop Comedy is a very popular website that records standup shows at various clubs across the country, and posts short 1-2 min clips online. If you’re familiar with podcasts, this explanation didn’t sync up with that of the tech and intern.

So, we’re all left wondering why we’re being recorded and what those recordings were being used for. I later emailed the person in charge of the standup shows (let’s call him Tony Perez) at the theater, saying I wanted to opt out of this recording. He simultaneously responded in an mass email saying:

Hello everyone!

Thanks for doing The Comedy Show last night.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there.(wedding, ugh)

I’m also sorry about not giving you a heads up about our podcast trial. I wasn’t aware that we’d be recording sets thereby requiring permission from each of you.

Thanks for all of your emails regarding audio usage – if you have any questions – I’m happy to answer them!

Hope to get you all on the show again soon!

Best,

APR (I changed his name from his usual signature)

So, I emailed a list of questions, including the following to Pete and Tony:

  1. Do you intend on having written consent forms, or is an oral agreement sufficient?
  2. If someone agrees orally, does this consent apply in perpetuity? Also, if someone agrees to written forms, how long does this consent apply?
  3. Who owns the rights to the clips?
  4. If they are posted online, can we have them removed if we do not like the clips that are used? If so, what is the procedure to do so?
  5. How long will the clips be online?
  6. Are there any plans to use the clips for monetary gain, and if so, are performers entitled to a portion of the profits?
  7. Are you only recording the Comedy Show show, or is this going to occur for other standup shows (Nighttime Comedy, Obscure Popular Comedy, etc.)?

Meanwhile, I was really bothered with the way the whole evening went. We were forcibly recorded for unknown reasons or usage, and after pressing for it, we were able to say we don’t want to be recorded. However, there were a couple of new comedians on that show who didn’t know any better. Nobody told them that being recorded and posting their clips of performing standup for 7 people wasn’t going to be helpful for their career. I found it especially troubling since these people were taking classes with Tony Perez. Since he was the one who came up with the idea of recording, he would be in a conflict of interest to tell his students that they should be judicious on what they post online.

So, I decided to start a discussion on a private Facebook forum for standup comedians in Boston. I posted:

CONTROVERSY OF THE WEEK: Non-profit Theater is now recording standup sets to put on a Non-profit Theater “podcast” (it’s unclear what it will be because some people said “podcast”, while Pete (Rose) said it was just going to be clips, like Rooftop). They started doing it yesterday as a trial, though didn’t have us sign waivers granting permission to use our material. The default is they will use material, unless we opt out. Thoughts?

I led with “Controversy of the Week” because that forum is filled with standup comedians bitching about one thing versus another. It’s what I would like to call “humor”, but that unfortunately was not taken that way, as I found out later. What followed was a series of posts by other comedians decrying this policy, and questioning the motivations of Non-profit Theater.  Finally, Tony Perez (a member of the private group) posted:

I’d like to jump in here just to clarify something that caused more confusion on Sunday night than anything else. Non-profit Theater rebranded Comedy Show Sundays as Comedy Show and we intend to record the audio of comedians’ sets for podcast purposes in the future WITH written consent from the comedians before each show (and an option to opt out after the show if you would rather your set not be used). This past Sunday we had a dry run with two of our Techs so we could test our audio recording capabilities during The Comedy Show. It was a test run for us and we had no intention of using any content for release anywhere. That said, since we were recording, we wanted to inform the comics on the lineup to make sure they knew that we were recording, and what we intended for the content in the future. That was it. The issue might have been a miscommunication of “Future content” rather than “Your content tonight, IN the future”. Once we are set up and know that the podcast was ready to launch, we’ll publish details so comics can get involved. Non-profit Theater is working to create opportunities for the Stand Up community and Comedy Show and Comedy Show podcast are just some of those opportunities – Anyone can opt out. Intellectual Property and material rights are not my specialty, but I know Non-profit Theater would NEVER assume to own a comedian’s set or the jokes themselves, only the right to publish the clips recorded at Non-profit Theater with the consent of the comic. The published clips would be used to showcase the local scene, highlighting comics that have played shows at Non-profit Theater and promoting future appearances by those comics. My apologies to anyone who was confused or concerned on Sunday. But really, with The Comedy Show and any other shows, feedback by people who are actively involved, who want to help, or who want to be involved in the scene at Non-profit Theater will always be welcome. I’ll take questions on or offline – I’ll also take shit with a smile on my face.

While this didn’t coincide with anything we were told previously, I accepted what Tony said regarding the recording issue. So, for me, the issue was over. Meanwhile, little did I know that Tony and Pete were getting hateful emails from standups about this (what they told me, don’t know if this is true or not), and felt that I was responsible for the whole thing. They thought, “I can’t believe Raj, a regular performer at this theater, would shit all over the theater so publicly.” It was never my intention to do so, and I did everything possible to put the theater in a positive light, while still maintaining the point that I disagreed with this new policy of recording standups (because until Tony’s post, it was a fixed policy in my mind and probably the minds of other standups that Sunday evening).

So, Tony tried calling me later that day to talk about this whole thread, and after seeing his post, I thought “This isn’t a big deal anymore”, and I had a work project due the next day, so I texted him later and said “Hey, I’m busy, can we talk about it later in the week?”

Tony never responded, and I just figured he moved on also. But the events that transpired reflect the opposite. I can only presume that my dismissal of their attempt to reach out to me because I was too busy with my day job was Tony and Pete’s conclusion that I wanted to destroy the Theater to it’s very core, and that I should be considered some sort of Enemy of the State.

Then began the second phase of total irrationality.

Pete contacted the Artistic Director of the theater, Dave Concepcion (again, fake name). I don’t know what exactly the course of events took place, but Dave sent me an email the day after Tony tried calling me saying:

Hey man…can we chat about this whole Sunday thing when you have a chance? I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.

Thanks,

Dave

I emailed him back saying “Sure, when would you want to talk?”, but didn’t hear back from him until Sunday. He then sent another email:

Hey man…sorry that I didn’t get back to right away. I’m available all day before 6pm. Can you give me a call at 123-456-7890 when you have a chance? Thanks!

Dave

So, I spoke to him on Sunday (a week after the infamous standup show), which he told me that my comments on Facebook were very unpleasant to Pete Rose. In fact, Pete found them to be “inflammatory”. And as a result, I would not be allowed to perform on the September 12 Ballyhoo show (or any other Non-profit theater show), UNTIL I met personally with Pete Rose to ensure that I wouldn’t make such comments online again.

I tried defending myself, mentioning the fact that I intentionally tried to be diplomatic and say nothing negative about the theater. Dave agreed that he didn’t see anything wrong with what I wrote, but Pete was very upset about it, so it made sense to have a meeting. I then mentioned the fact that it seemed pointless for me to have a meeting with Pete Rose over this issue as he still hadn’t responded to my original email or emailed me himself whatsoever (especially since Pete brags on Twitter about how efficiently he responds to emails, with a hashtag of #inboxzero). It was clear that Pete didn’t want to talk to me, so what would me trying to meet with him achieve?

I nevertheless agreed with Dave, who was trying to broker a peace (which in my mind was never a war). So he sent an email to me and Pete on Monday to try and set up a meeting. I responded immediately saying “I’m free anytime from Tuesday to Friday this week. My schedule is more erratic after that.”

A day passes by and still no response from Pete. Up until this point, he has still not said ONE WORD to me about this whole affair. He ran a festival that I performed at for 3 years, so it’s not like I was some stranger. So, it was a bit surprising that he was stonewalling me.

After talking to some friends, one of whom (Carlton Fisk) was in the middle of an intellectual property dispute with Non-profit Theater, because he ran a festival at the theater, and he wanted to branch out and do it somewhere else. The theater told him that he didn’t have the rights to the festival, and that despite spending his own money to promote the festival (what Carlton tells me), anything developed at Non-profit Theater belongs to Non-profit Theater.

I don’t want to get into Carlton’s problems, as that’s another 5000 word story.  But I mention it for context, and that Carlton is a good friend of mine. While his fight was never my fight, I tried to support him as best a friend could. Carlton told me that he went to the board to resolve his dispute with Pete, so I thought that would be a reasonable avenue to resolve my dispute with Pete. Carlton would always say “the board is there for you”.

Monday passes, and Tuesday passes, and I still haven’t heard from Pete about meeting, and as things stood, I wouldn’t be allowed to perform on the Ballyhoo. The people who were producing the Ballyhoo were saying they’re trying to email Pete and Dave and get them to change their mind, but ultimately I’m the one who was banned for the forseeable future for (as one person eloquently put it) an Orwellian Thoughtcrime.  While we agreed that this abuse of power didn’t sit well with us on a principle level, I was still hurt on a personal level.

I eventually decided to email a couple of members of the board. Formation of a board of directors is an essential part of any 501(c)3, but most of the people on the Non-profit Theater board just consider board membership a “resume stuffer”. So, I sent a lengthy email to the board of my plight (yet still slightly shorter than this post), and what safeguards there were against Pete’s abuse of power. But I didn’t hear back from them.

I simultaneously sent an email to everyone I thought was important at Non-profit Theater to tell them what was happening at the theater they and I so loved. Nowhere in my email to them did I ask them to take action (except maybe to forward my email).  I simply was laying out the story as it was, and said it troubles me that this is allowed to happen.  Out of ~30 people I emailed, about 6 responded back to me saying they support me, and they’re sorry about what happened.  A few of them volunteered to write letters to the board on my behalf.

At this point, I’m frustrated and feeling ignored by everyone. I started out not wanting blood, but in my frustration and loneliness of being ignored by people I considered “friends” I became irrational and bloodthirsty.  I get 6 supportive emails out of 30 people I contacted, so I think “Nobody give a damn what happened to me. Nor do they realize that this could happen to them.” I’d finally given up on trying to rally support from theater that I’ve performed, teched, taught, and took classes at. So, I decided to make an appeal to the standup community. I posted on another standup forum what had happened to me, and that standups should consider against performing there, possibly even boycott the theater until Pete Rose is forced to step down.  While this attracted many views, few people expressed support.  So, I removed the post a day later, as I was ashamed that my emotions got the best of me.

Meanwhile, one of the people I emailed (Jim Rice) who emailed the board himself, told me that the board responded to him on Wednesday saying this is the first that they heard of what happened to me (still no response from Pete yet). Funnily enough, I was the one who gave Jim the board members’ email address! So, I re-sent my email to the board, and they informed me that they spoke to Pete on Tuesday evening, after receiving Jim’s email about this, and they hope the issue would be resolved shortly.

No less than 6 hrs after I received the board’s email (but 2 days after Dave and I try to arrange a meeting), Pete emails me:

I understand that Tony Perez left you a message last week and that you spoke with Dave Concepcion over the weekend.
I’m not sure exactly what was communicated on behalf of myself or the Theater, but if you are available for and interested in a personal conversation about the communication issues over the last week and where we both find ourselves now, I can schedule time tomorrow morning before 11AM or anytime Monday.
PR
So I agree to meet with Pete the next day (Thursday), and lead off with the obvious question, “What did I do wrong?” He then explains his side of the story (which I tried to mingle into this post), and said that he was really busy on Sunday night and that he didn’t have time to explain what was happening with the recording, and that they were only testing equipment. I said to him, “It took 3 minutes to say that. You owe us at least that much time to explain what you’re doing with our sets if you’re going to record them or set up recording equipment.” He shrugged it off and then says “What’s your end plan? The board is saying there are all these people demanding my resignation. I’ll be fine. I have a wife and baby, I can go back to my other theater.”
After my half-hearted plea for a boycott on Tuesday, I sort of realized that nobody had my back and realized that no-one was going to boycott, so there’s no point in fighting the system.  I told him I didn’t want blood. I apologized for my boycott demands, and said that came out of a low place in my life, and I hope he can see where I came from. I presumed that his demand that I was removed from performing was a similar knee-jerk reaction. He conceded this to be true. We both sort of felt like wronged parties, but we at least had an understanding.
I left the meeting feeling a little better, and Pete said that everything goes back to status quo and I get to perform on the Ballyhoo. I emailed the 30 people I emailed before (whether they responded or not), telling them the conclusions from our meeting. These included:
  1. There is a code of conduct which I was not familiar with, which precludes people from saying things negatively about Non-profit Theater. That Code of Conduct would be made available.
  2. I said I would work with Pete to come up with a Bill of Rights for performers, so that these types of shenanigans didn’t happen again.
  3. Non-profit Theater would come up with a definitive guide of intellectual property so it’s clear that when you perform at the theater, you know who owns what rights (Carlton’s fight bled into mine over whether standup rights were being violated by this “recording fiasco”).
I started formulating a list of the Bill of Rights, as I emailed the board, assuming they would care about the result of this dispute. Their response was:

Greetings Raj,

And Thank You for communicating and resolving your immediate concerns directly with Pete in your meeting this week. Working things out directly with the Managing Director is clearly in the best interest of all parties involved. On behalf of the Board, I would like to express appreciation for direct communication with the the MD and AD for all matters at the theater. We are in constant communication with Pete and pay very close attention to all concerns that are posed.

The Bill of Rights idea is a good one the way you pose it, and invite you to continue sharing your ideas with the MD and AD at the theater.

There are a number of initiatives in process, many of which we hope will address the concerns that you have posed. Stay tuned for sure, and I think you will be pleased with the progress we make in the weeks/months ahead.

Please do continue to offer suggestions, and rest assured that the Board is diligently working behind the scenes to advance policies, procedures, upgrades and long range planning that benefit all parties involved for years to come.
Best,
Sparky Anderson
President and Board Chairperson

I interpreted this as: “Next time you get in a feud with the MD and he bans you from the theater, don’t bother us. Also, you have some interesting ideas, tell them to the MD or AD and stop wasting our time.” So, I gave up on formulating the Bill of Rights.

So the result of all that was I wasn’t banned anymore, and there would be no more recording of standup sets without permission.  Seems like a victory, right?

Well, at a Town Hall Meeting of Non-profit Theater four days ago (which I didn’t attend, but read reports of), Pete decided to address my situation by saying I was angry about the recording that occurred at Non-profit Theater, so I decided to talk negatively about Non-profit Theater online. According to him, Pete, Dave, and Tony all tried to reach out to me, but I was clearly too “busy” to reply, but not too busy to start a nation-wide boycott of the theater to demand Pete to step down.

And thus began the revisionist history. Just like Tony and Pete changed the story of what happened the night of the recordings (the current story is that it was just a “test” and that nobody was recorded), they were beginning to revise the picture of me being a person being banned for innocuously posting something online, to me being banned for making personal attacks online towards Non-profit theater members (and for possibly murdering kittens, I did miss the meeting, so I don’t know what I was accused of).

Tony and Pete each made appeals to the Non-profit Theater community to give them the benefit of the doubt over what happened and that they’re all looking out for the community members. I heard that and couldn’t help but wonder “Who looked out for me? Who said, ‘Raj is a good dude, I’m sure he had a reason for posting his concerns online, rather than talking to us. Maybe we should speak to him first, rather than immediately preventing him from performing?'”

I’m done fighting over this. I just wanted to put my truth out there for people’s consumption. I’m writing this because I concede that Non-profit theater won, and I just want to move on. I don’t care what happens to any of the people at the Theater anymore.  I just want them to stop fabricating the truth over what I did to demonize me and portray themselves as victims.  As I said before, I may have a skewed interpretation of the facts, but I want them to be available for people to make their own conclusions, rather be presented with falsehoods.  When I told Pete that I was frustrated about how frequently the story changed over this recording thing, he ominously replied, “You’re just going to have to accept that people will lie to you.”

LESSONS I LEARNED

Why did all of this happen? Because I tried to act like a goddamn hero. I was speaking to one of the new performers before the infamous standup show, and then saw that this recording was going to happen. I realized “This guy’s not going to know that recording his set is a bad idea!” I had to start a discussion on a local standup forum so that new comics (most of the people who read that forum) know that it’s not great to have all your sets online. Because a potential booker might see a set where you’re bombing (or sound like you’re bombing) and decide “I won’t book him/her.”  And it’s unfair for them to be punished for not knowing better.

I was trying to look out for these new comics because I thought I was doing a good thing by putting facts out in the air. I emailed my “friends” and people at the board to notify them of what happened to me after I was banned for my Facebook comments, because if it happens to me, it could happen to anyone else.  I thought my banning was also unfair.

I’ve never been in a fight in my life, and I would have happily gone along with Pete banning me from Non-profit theater forever. I am moving to New York, and I didn’t need to perform at Non-profit Theater anymore. But I again decided to be a goddamn hero and put up a fight over this, because if he was going to try and bully me out of a theater I loved, then who’s to stop him from doing that to anyone else? And what if that person isn’t funny (which I once believed I was, but now I’m not sure anymore), and Non-profit theater is the only place that lets him perform. I thought that I was standing up for the Everyman.

Non-profit theater exists as a non-profit theater because it’s a community of people. Some people are funny, many are not, but they all agree to come and meet at this location to be friends and bond over comedy (good or bad). Despite winning the battles over recording standup sets and performing at the Ballyhoo, I lost the war.

I don’t feel welcome at the theater anymore, and while I’m technically not “banned”, I have been forbidden from teaching sketch writing there, and probably will never be booked there again.  Finally, I can’t look at people at the theater as friends anymore. The ethos of Non-profit Theater is meant to be “community”, but when push came to shove, their stagetime was more important than my right to fair treatment or friendship.

It’s very easy to paint me or Pete as a villain, but nobody’s a villain and nobody’s a hero. Everyone behaves their own selfish ways. I foolishly thought that I’m doing something for a perceived little guy, but that person doesn’t exist. I’m just quixotically trying to uphold principles that nobody cares about. Pete and Tony thought they were trying to be helpful to the standup community by recording our sets and putting them online for our benefit.  But really, they just wanted to legitimize Non-profit Theater as a venue for standup and make themselves more relevant in the Boston comedy community.

So, the lesson I learned from this is, if you see something, say nothing. That’s what anyone else is going to do.

I will now return to minding my own business.

Which Party Makes Jobs?

The last couple weeks has been filled with fêtes for the presidential nominees, and the common denominator in each convention has been “Who’s going to create jobs?”

Bill Clinton gave a very passionate speech which referenced the fact that, since 1961, Democratic Presidents created 42 million jobs, while Republicans created 24 million.  A Politifact article broke down the job creation stats by president, with the emphasis that these are private sector jobs.  This is important for several reasons, the most important of which is that while each party differs in their attitudes towards the size of government (i.e. public sector jobs), they both want to increase the number of jobs in the private sector.

So, I decided to break down the track record of each party and compare it to the amount of jobs each created as president, or with a majority in the Senate, or a majority in the House.

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These are complicated datasets, and open to all sorts of interpretations.  But it seems that the only reliable trend over the last 30 years is that Republicans start job growth, then begin a spiral of decline, which Democrats come in and fix the job losses so that Republicans can continue the cycle.

Average jobs created per year for each combination of party in power. D/D = Democrat president, Democrat-controlled Congress; D/R = Democrat president, Republican-controlled Congress; D/M = Democrat president, One house of Congress controlled by Democrats, other by Republicans; R/M = Republican president, One house of Congress controlled by Democrats, other by Republicans; R/D = Republican president, Democrat-controlled Congress; R/R = Republican president, Republican-controlled Congress.

This can be even more apparent if you look at the above graph which calculates percent jobs created per year.  When Republicans are in power of any branch of government, they have generally less job growth than when Democrats are in power.  The notable exception is when Democrats controlled both branches and both houses from 2009-2011.  If you exclude this 2-year period (1st D/D), this looks really good for Democrats.  If you include it (2nd D/D, far right), it still looks good, but with larger error. But either way, there doesn’t appear to be a statistical difference from one column to the next.

So, there appears to be a weak trend that Democrats make more private sector jobs than Republicans.  However, this doesn’t take into account that the growth of government under Democrats will also create public sector jobs, which Republicans are eager to cut.  So, I guess in a period where everyone needs jobs (public or private), we probably should vote Democrat.

The Comedian’s Manifesto

For years, we have been looking to the horizon for glimpses of a promised land.  We all sail towards this promised land on a sinking ship, a hole in the bottom the size of our own self-doubt. Though few to none of us ever reach the promised land, we are always buoyed by the hope that we will get there one day.

The sad truth of the matter is that our ship crashed on the promised land years ago.  We’re just too oblivious to realize it.  We live in a golden age of comedy, where it is easier than ever before to entertain people.  We can write funny tweets on twitter, easily make and edit films and sketches, find a weird venue (bookstore, laundromat) to do a comedy show, waste everyone’s time with our self-aggrandizing blogs…

All of these are free (or close to free) and easy ways to entertain people, and the power of the internet makes our ability to find an audience easier than ever.  So what’s the problem with comedy?  There are countless comedy boards/forums of people complaining about things that are wrong with comedy.  It’s this fog of “industry”, people we blame for the state of comedy, because they will rather promote comedians that have a “buzz” rather than comedians that are “good”.  This isn’t to throw all industry under a bus, some of them are actually competent. But many industry members (so-called “gatekeepers”) would rather have their own ego stroked than actually help a comedian.

But the problem is that we’re still thinking with a “we’re adrift at sea” attitude, when we’re actually in a “promised land” world.  We fight and scrape to try and get on TV, when fewer and fewer people are consuming television in a traditional way.  TV programming was essentially designed as a way to package commercials to people, and the 30 minute sitcom is a dying format.  So what we’re fighting for is essentially a way to keep “gatekeepers” relevant.

But they’re not.  We’re the ones with talent.  We’re the ones capable of creating things.  No matter what happens to us, we can always produce something else.  And while many of us toil in obscurity now, the more we keep doing great things, the more likely we’ll find an audience that loves what we do and will let us do bigger and better things.  Then “gatekeepers” will say, “You’re welcome for what we’ve done for your career”.

But they didn’t do anything! Why do we need “gatekeepers”? I think it’s because it allows us a convenient scapegoat.  We get too obsessed over the self-destructive questions:

  1. Why did he/she get that opportunity?
  2. Why didn’t I get that opportunity?
  3. Is there a way I can get a shortcut to success?

Fortunately, we can blame all the ills of the comedy process on these gatekeepers, rather than be self-reflective.  I’ve been in Boston performing standup, sketch, and improv for the last 4 years, and if you spoke to anyone in the Boston community, the general consensus is that what I do is mediocre, provided they know who I am.  Nevertheless, I think I’m great, though I am constantly passed over for gigs, showcases, and other perceived opportunities and dwell on the self-destructive questions.

Some use this to become bitter and jaded to the comedy world, which is not the way to be.  You should look at every missed opportunity as a chance that you can improve yourself.  And if you think someone gets an opportunity before they’re ready, you should pity them.  The rest of their career path will be trying to fulfill unrealistic expectations, while you missing opportunities continue to have no expectations.

We fall into the trap of placating the powers-that-be, unaware that we need to be placating our peers.  We don’t need bookers, agents, managers, they are only tools that facilitate us reaching an audience.  And we need to appreciate that it’s only through promoting other comedians do we make comedy better and realize that we’ve reached the promised land.  I suggest we all follow these five tenets of comedy to bring us together as a community.  Like twigs, we can be easily broken on our own, but held together we are unbreakable.

  1. Do no thing that will harm the career of another comedian.
  2. If you see a comedian you like, tell them you like what they do.  Also, tell others.
  3. Be funny.  If you don’t get what you want career-wise, you need to work to get funnier.
  4. You don’t have to like or find every comedian funny.  But you should respect them the same as a comedian you do like or find funny.
  5. If you find certain jokes from a comedian of questionable content, tell them.  Comedians trust their peers more than they do the silence of an audience.

There’s also the sixth tenet, which is really a meta-tenet:

6.  Only associate with comedians who subscribe to the previous five tenets.

I think if we all subscribe to these five (+1) tenets, I think comedy would be a better place.  We can actually enjoy the promised land that we’re already on.  I may not be particularly good at comedy, but I believe in its purest form.  It is a way for people to feel better about themselves.  And in these shitty times, we need more comedians than ever.

Guest Post: Mystery Monkey of Tampa, Florida

Hello, my name is Chet, though many people like to call me the “Mystery Monkey”.  You may have seen a recent NY Times article about me and a few of my cousins in the Tampa area.  While I enjoyed the article, reading it over the shoulder of an elderly gentleman waiting to play golf at Rocky Point, I think it really missed the point of why I was in Tampa.

POLITICS.

My people have been in the Florida area for the last 80 years, and we’ve seen a huge influx of conservatives that have reshaped our state’s politics.  I was born just after Bill Clinton was elected, and witnessed first hand the debacle of the 2000 election.  Katherine Harris was forced to halt the recounts after I urinated on some of the ballots.  Of course, the Democrats made it a political to-do, a Republican Secretary of State rigging the election for George W. Bush, but she was simply looking out for the volunteers.  Nobody wants Herpes B.

You’re probably saying, “Chet, you’re just another Republican monkey! Rehashing talking points ad nauseum!”  I like to consider myself “unaffiliated” with any party, and if I could vote, I would definitely be independent. However, I can’t thanks to the Draconian Florida voter-registration rules.

What are my politics you ask? Well, I do believe in gay rights.  When I was growing up, I fondly remember playing with the penises of the other members of the group, without anyone in the troop judging us.  I don’t remember Satchmo (the troop alpha) ever saying, “I don’t know if kids being gay is right for our troop!”  He knew that the likelihood of us finding a mate was slim-to-none, so we might as well enjoy ourselves before we are violently bludgeoned by a future rival.

While I am socially liberal, I do believe in smaller government.  Particularly, I believe in de-funding the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  I don’t know how many times they tried shooting me – wasting much needed bullets that are better used on those good-for-nothing alligators that keep trying to eat me.

I am looking forward to seeing the RNC convention coming up, particularly to see what the Romney-Ryan plan for America is.  I like their plan to give back the Bush tax cuts to the alpha human “job creators”, because from my experience, we don’t want to piss off the alphas.  I once saw Satchmo rip apart the jaws of a rival male, and I thought to myself “Looks like I’ll be a subordinate!”

Also, I don’t really understand all this hubbub about the Republican “War on Women”.  It’s pretty amazing to me that human women can just kill a baby before it even gets born.  That’s usually the responsibility of a rival male (and he can only do it after the baby is born).  I’d be nervous if women could choose not to birth children – what would stop them from never having children?  I’ve never raised a child, as it looks quite onerous, so I wouldn’t blame women for not wanting to do so.  However, I don’t blame the Republicans from having a war on women, because women need to understand that they have to make babies, or the troop will die off.

My biggest concern with the Romney-Ryan agenda is that they want to create more jobs. To me, this means more buildings and factories; destruction of my people’s habitat.  I haven’t seen my troop in years, and my attempts so far to procreate with USF humans has been completely unsuccessful.  I would like to ask Romney-Ryan – “If you destroy the wilderness to build more factories, or drill more oil, then how am I supposed to get offspring?”  No matter what the Tea Party says, I can’t just go around trying to rape every animal I see.

I don’t know if Romney and Ryan hold the answers for America, the country that I love.  Then again, Barack Obama’s health care plan offers no coverage for monkey attacks (well, attacks on humans by monkeys is covered, but not the other way around), so I’m against Obamacare.  To be honest, I feel no matter which party you vote for, it’ll just be for a couple of apes that really aren’t looking out for us monkeys.  Then again, apes never have.

Damn dirty apes.

(Raj Sivaraman holds no responsibility for the content of this post, as it was written entirely by an anthropomorphic rhesus macaque.)

The Idiot’s Guide to Brown People Religions

After the senseless attack on the gurudwara in Wisconsin, I thought it necessary to post a simple guide to the various religions of brown people (South Asians), if only to avoid the event of me getting shot at a Hindu temple because someone can’t tell the difference between Ganesh and Allah (hint: YOU CAN’T DEPICT ALLAH).

Type Buddhist Christian Hindu Jain Muslim Sikh
Looks Like
Religion Buddhism Christian Hinduism Jainism Islam Sikhism
God(s) Buddha Jesus? Many Noone / Everyone Allah Onkar
Place of Worship
Dietary Restrictions Typically vegetarian No restrictions Typically Vegetarian Pure Vegetarian, no garlic, onions, root vegetables No pork or non-Halal meats Meat killed by single stroke of sword
Should be shot? No No No No No No

Guns don’t kill people, Massacres do…

The shooting last week in Aurora has captured the media’s attention for the past week, which is quite impressive considering the media has ADD.  One of the underlying themes of this story is the question of gun control.  Many people have argued that we need to control guns to protect people from such tragedy again.  My general response to tragedy: data mining.

While I am completely opposed to guns (despite my amusement at reading an issue of “The Complete Book of Handguns”), I do wonder if gun control would have really stopped that shooting.  I read an article recently that showed that there was a decline in gun ownership over the last 30 years.  There is also this blog that suggests that the gun culture of America is waning.  So, I decided to do a little bit of my own research:

Y-axis shows number of deaths in shootings, number above bar represents number of shooting incidents in the last 5 years. Source: Wikipedia

The above figure shows all the countries that had over 200 people die in the last 5 years in mass shooting incidents, as well as listing the number of shooting incidents that occurred in each country. I looked through Wikipedia for the amount of shootings and mass murders that occurred over the last 5 years, and I noticed a few interesting trends.

  1. The USA barely ranks in the top 5 of people killed in mass shootings, behind Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mexico, and Pakistan.
  2. The USA has over 3 times as many incidents of mass shootings compared to the next closest country.

America really tries to revel in the fact that most mass shootings happen here, ignoring the data that hundreds more are killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (mostly by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army – remember that guy?), Iraq, Pakistan, and Mexico.  While it is true that the frequency of mass shootings is higher here, the loss of life is considerably less*.

So, the question is, does having a gun promote the likelihood of mass shootings?  When you take all shootings in the last 5 years and compare that to the number of guns in the country (according to the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project on gun proliferation), countries that have had mass shootings have significantly more guns within the population (counting total number of registered guns/person) relative to countries that have not observed mass shootings.  This is not to say that number of guns is a predictor of likelihood of mass shootings.

As you see above, there is no correlation between the total number of people killed in a five year span compared to the number of guns in a population, or the world gun ranking (according to Small Arms Survey).

So, while limiting access to guns doesn’t guarantee that incidents like Aurora won’t happen, societies with guns are more likely to have these types of shootings.  But, I think the point of this statistic is not that guns cause violence, it’s that the mentality of a society that feels the need for guns is what causes the violence.  If you compare China and the US, China has 3 guns for every 100 people, while the US has 89.  While the US witnessed 258 people killed in the last 5 years by mass shootings, China saw 241.  Most of the killings in China during this period were caused by people wielding knives and axes.

Year

Attack

Details

2009

Chengdu bus fire

Man set fire to bus because family wouldn’t support him anymore

2010-2011

School killings

Several incidents over 2 years.  Perpetrators would attack school children with knives, cleavers, and hammers

2010

Hebei tractor rampage

Drunk man killed people with tractor

2012

Yecheng attack

Muslim extremists attacked pedestrians on Happiness road with axes/knives

I think China is a perfect example that it’s the mental state of individuals who perpetrate these crimes.  And if you look at all the other countries on this list, it’s paramilitary groups or terrorist organizations, or gangs that are responsible for these attacks.  While we like to dismiss this behavior, there is a fundamental ideology that leads someone to join one of these organizations.  And often times, it’s a product of a dysfunctional society.

I would argue that it’s the media’s morbid curiosity in these killings.  A video by Newswipe’s Charlie Booker shows an interview with a forensic psychologist who argues that the news propagates antisocial behavior, even encouraging “copycats” to commit mass killings.

Helen Lewis’ article in the New Statesman even looks at what papers got it right and wrong in their coverage of Aurora.  I believe that the rise in gun violence corresponds to cultural changes of the last few years, and if you look at the following plot, it would appear that a steep rise in the number of shooting incidents every 5 years occurs after 1980.  This is divided into shootings in the workplace, soldiers shooting other soldiers (not in combat), school shootings, and shootings based upon religion.

Source: Wikipedia

And if you look at other types of shootings, this trend seems to follow across regions.

Source: Wikipedia

While there was a general rise in gun violence since 1900, there was definitely an inflection point around 1980-1990. And many can draw conclusions of their own as to who is to blame for this recent rise (or if in fact this increase exists, much like those climate-change deniers), but I would just like to throw out for sake of argument that CNN first broadcast on June 1, 1980.  Whether the 24 hour news cycle perpetuates mass gun violence is definitely up for debate, but I would argue that news broadcasters tread a fine line between covering a story and romanticizing a killing.

Now back to comedy-related posts. What’s up with Daniel Tosh, huh?

*I’d like to point out that this data only includes paramilitary groups attacking civilians or civilians attacking civilians, or civilians attacking government officials.  So, the hundreds that have been murdered in Syria or the Mexican drug war have been excluded from this analysis.  I did included mass graves found in Mexico, as it’s unclear if these people are rival gang members or just regular people killed by one of the cartels.

Comedy in India

It’s a strange predicament being an Indian who grew up in America.  When I would go to India, all my creature comforts in America were gone. I couldn’t get pizza, donuts, or watch movies or TV in English.  I had to adapt to a new land and learn new customs.  I took up cricket and carrom, washed myself using little buckets, and got used to removing geckos crawling on my bed.  Over the years, India has modernized, and become more “western”, to the point now that there is a growing community of English-speaking standup comedians in Mumbai.

I was intrigued at the opportunity to perform for an audience whose primary language wasn’t English. I figured it would be a challenge to make my material on nachos and homelessness relevant for people who don’t know what nachos are and think begging is a viable career path.  More so, I was curious to meet the comedians who were doing standup comedy in English in India.

I was asked to perform at a bar show in Bandra, a vibrant part of Mumbai with many bars, shops, and restaurants.  However, I was staying with my family in Goregaon, a suburb of Mumbai, with little to nothing of interest, other than my family.  I had to take an auto-rickshaw to the show, which was no small task, as I don’t speak a lick of Hindi and the driver kept asking me for directions. Fortunately for me, “left”, “right”, “stop”, and frantically gesturing to turn around are universally understood.

 The cultural attitude of my family in India could best be described in American terms as somewhere between Amish and Fundamentalist Christian. They mostly don’t drink, and meet that stereotype of the white-collar IT employee who works 18 hours a day and doesn’t do anything for fun.  So, while they knew that I did standup comedy, it was a chore to convince them that performing in a bar did not make me a godless heathen.

Bars in India are where the über-wealthy go to play; I saw several BMWs and Audis parked in front of the bar.  I tried getting change for a 500 rupee note from the bar, and after much discussion a man offered me change by going out to his Mercedes-Benz, and pulling a large briefcase filled with money.  I was pleasantly surprised when he left immediately after, because I was terrified that that interaction made me part of the mafia.  And I am really terrible at breaking people’s legs (other than my own).

The comedy show took place in a corner of the bar, without a stage, with a swarm of people just standing around the corner.  While this isn’t really an ideal situation for comedy, I was still very impressed by the number of people that were present and attentively listening to standup comedy, even open mic standup comedy.

Most of the acts were people who’ve been doing comedy for less than one year.  A couple of 18 year olds got on and said they were doing it for their first time.  It was funny watching these kids, because I realized that bad open mic’rs are the same the world around.  One kid’s entire act was about how little sex he was having. I couldn’t help but think, “You’re an 18-year-old in India! How much sex could you possibly have?” 

I was introduced with a question to the audience: “Do you want another sexy young 18 year old, or a man with a sexy accent?”  After an awkward silence, one woman intrepidly offered “an accent?”  Then another chimed in “Accent!”.  Then the host got the crowd to start chanting “Ac-cent! Ac-cent! Ac-cent!”.  I’m assuming they weren’t expecting my Kentucky drawl, as it is low on the list of sexy accents. If you’re keeping score at home, it’s just above Ugandan.

My set didn’t start off well, and, in my hubris, I decided to try out some new jokes. I had written a couple of minutes of material while in India, mostly about my experiences dealing with Indians there. Unfortunately, the crowd did not enjoy those jokes, which flustered me, then led to a downward spiral of failure (commonly referred to as “bombing”, but that term is unpopular in India, for obvious Pakistani-related reasons).  One woman in the crowd even heckled me with “Enough about India!”

In my mind, I thought I was setting the world afire with my astute observations about India, but in reality, the audience simply didn’t care.  They would much rather hear jokes about how Delhi people are dumb, or how Gujuratis are cheap, and Punjabis eat too much.  They didn’t care for my joke about how Hindi is the national language of India, despite the fact that no one in the 4 southernmost states speaks it. 

So, my goal to do standup in India failed miserably. When talking with my family about this, they said it wasn’t because I’m an outsider, it was because I was talking about things that Indians don’t like to talk about.  There are still a lot of taboos in Indian society, even with people that will come to a comedy show in a bar in Mumbai.

When I discovered that there was standup in India, I was excited, just like I was when I discovered Domino’s had moved in, or my family installed a shower in their bathroom.  While there is standup in India, it’s a very different standup from the kind you’ll find in the US.  It’s a kind of standup that makes fun of society, but without ever really addressing important issues.  It’s the kind of standup where million dollar homes next to the squalid huts, a Mercedes Benz stuck in traffic behind a herd of goats, and major cities losing electrical power for no apparent reason are unacceptable topics of comedy.  I look forward to the day when that will happen, hopefully as soon as the geckos stop crawling on my bed.

A Night of Comedy in India pt. 2

I accidentally uploaded this post before I finished the story.  Here’s the rest of that night:

The second half of the open mic began with the host opening the floor up to anyone wanting to do a set.  To me, this is the last straw.  How can you open the floor up to people who’ve never done comedy before, and then ask them to do a 4 minute set?  That’s like saying, “Hey, what you’ve been watching tonight is SUPER EASY.  You don’t even need to PREPARE.  Just come on up and be VERY FUNNY.”  Fortunately, nobody took the MC on her offer, and it just created 5 minutes of awkwardness (which I would have much preferred to be added to my time, but whatever).

The second half of the show was filled with even more train wrecks.  Two guys who have never done comedy before came up.  The first, a freelance designer, told the joke that made me wonder at what point did he think it would be funny.  The joke was:

People in Bombay don’t like people in Delhi.  Why? What happens in Delhi?  Rape.  I was with in Delhi on a date with a girl from there, a guy comes up to me, robs me then takes the girl and proceeds to rape her.  I’m scared in the corner, and when it’s all over, the girl comes back and I say “Are you OK?”.  She says “I got off lucky, it was only one guy.”

I’ve never heard a story of rape told A) so glibly and B) on purpose, in front of an audience, for comedic purposes.  The audience groaned at the end of that, proving just how tolerant they were.  I’m assuming that story was made up, but if it wasn’t, he has a very strange way of handling traumatic experiences.

To confirm just how loving and warm that audience was, the next comic started telling a joke then finished and realized there was no punchline in the joke.  He then said “I’m a comedy virgin”, which somehow got him an applause break.

Then, my anti-Delhi friend, Abhimanyu, comes on and does his act, including a joke about how Gujuratis all go to Bangkok and have sex with ladyboys (this is the kind of stereotypes that the people who wrote Outsourced missed).  One of the frustrating parts of the evening is that most of the punchlines were delivered in Hindi.  So, I’m going along with the whole premise and setup then “BOOM”. The audience is dying of laughter and I’m just thinking “I really wish I learned Hindi. Because I’m fairly confident that joke is not that funny.”

The last comedian of the night was introduced as a guy who works with Aditya Birla (the Andrew Carnegie of India).  He starts with “As a chartered accountant, you’re probably expecting to hear economic jokes.  I’m not going to tell you economic jokes because the intelligence level of the audience is too low.  And it’s not your fault, you’ve been listening to comedian after comedian who is making you dumber and dumber.”  Even I was a little annoyed about his opening thesis.  I have a joke about the existential nature of nacho cheese!  He also says “Unlike the other comedians on this show, I have a real job.” That is BS, because almost every comedian on the show was either an engineer, accountant, pharmacist, or me, a lowly scientist.  Funnily enough, that was probably the most accomplished open mic I’ve ever been to.

So, after that, two comedians were selected: Ukelele Guy and Abhimanyu (who apparently brought everyone he knows to the show, including his mother).  Ukelele Guy won (big surprise), which got him a guest spot at some later date on a weekend show.  After the show, I went to thank the host and see if I could get on some other shows this week.  She was really nice, and said “Too bad you didn’t win.  We all really liked your act.”  Nothing like feeling you had a good set and then having it ruined by the fact that you didn’t win.

Even though standup comedy in India is still in its infancy, I can see it developing into something pretty great.  It was cool to see an open mic on a Wednesday drawing over 100 people. Admittedly, there are a billion people here, so anywhere you go is 100 people.  As much as I dislike the corruption, mosquitoes, and heat of India, I do look forward to coming back and doing more comedy here. An audience who can listen to a fake rape story and still be polite is a real comedians dream.  Which just goes to show how messed up comedian dreams are.