In the past two decades, Anuvab Pal has gone from Ohio Wesleyan University, to selling financial products, to stand-up comedy shows in his native India. His efforts have resulted in sell-out crowds at home, with The New York Times calling him “India’s most intelligent stand-up comic.” During his downtime, he’s also penned a few Bollywood comedic screenplays, and the time has come for Boston get a taste of what audiences from New York to Mumbai have been hipped to now that he’s performing at Laugh Boston on April 3.
I caught up with him from Austin, where he had been participating in panels at SXSW, which Pal says feels like going “to some Silicon Valley festival on drugs.”
What was the panel you participated in at SXSW?
[“America Meet World: How Global Satirists See Us.”] I talked about how Indians love being loved by America. If we can find the slightest India connection, like if we can get a photo of Jeb Bush eating a chicken tikka masala, they run it all over the media. We just want validation. We just want the Americans to think, “Oh, they fucking love us!”
Which of your works most closely address that topic of the panel?
The one that really talks about satire in the United States is The President Is Coming, which is a mockumentary in which George W. Bush comes to India and they have a nationwide contest to select a person worthy of shaking hands with him. I found it funny because the person who is going to be selected has to have all the qualities of an Indian person while displaying all-American qualities, and I was always fascinated to learn what those are.
Let’s talk about your latest stand-up special, The Empire.
Basically it’s a lot about colonies and empire. I don’t know how that will play to a bunch of drunken people. It’s a lot about how Gandhi was really good at convincing people that didn’t want to fight that they shouldn’t fight. The British understood one kind of revolution, armed revolution, but they had never encountered a guy who just refused to eat. He’s like, “I’m not gonna have a sandwich,” and the British [just] didn’t know how to deal with that stuff.
When and where did you begin performing it live?
My first show of The Empire was September last year. I did 10 of them in Bombay [Mumbai], three in Delhi, and then I took it to Bangalore and a few other cities. Then I went on a tour around India. Then it came to New York; I did one there on March 8. Surprisingly, I haven’t been able to line up some big shows in London, which I would absolutely love to do. That’s next on the agenda, so we’ll see how that goes.
Which is the better way to make a living: selling financial products for Reuters in New York and India or writing and performing comedy?
[Laughs.] I only quit Reuters [after 12 years] when the stand-up started picking up, because I couldn’t manage the traveling. In hindsight, I really miss having a day job. I miss going someplace, sitting down, working, coming home. I miss the mundane-ness of that.
ANUVAB PAL. FRI 4.3. LAUGH BOSTON, 425 SUMMER ST., BOSTON. 617-725-2844. 10:15PM/ALL AGES/$25. LAUGHBOSTON.COM
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.