New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

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New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Award-winning comedian Vir Das brings India to Carnegie Hall in his ‘Mind Fool’ Tour

On Jan. 19, Das made history as the first Indian comedian to headline at the iconic venue.
A+bearded+Indian+man+wearing+a+blue+suit+kneels+between+the+white+words+%E2%80%9CVir+Das+Mind+Fool.%E2%80%9D+There+are+gold+designs+depicting+clowns%2C+microphones+and+mountains+bordering+the+frame.
Indian comedian Vir Das (Courtesy of Vir Das)

Vir Das, a name synonymous with Indian comedy and multiple Netflix specials, stopped at Carnegie Hall on Jan. 19 as part of his 33-country “Mind Fool World Tour.” After an opening act from Indian-American comedian and screenwriter Zarna Garg, Das improvised a seven minute comedic stall to start the show at Indian Standard Time, catering to his mostly Indian-American audience. 

Das split his main set into two distinctive parts creating a universal yet personal performance. The first part was partially uncomfortable social commentary, with some jokes crossing the line. In the second part, Das turns to storytelling, ultimately leaving the audience both reflective and thoroughly entertained. In an interview with WSN, Das said that the name, “Mind Fool,” symbolizes the lighthearted theme of the show.

“The name is to signify really that your mind is in your way, and that there’s some sort of class on adulting that I seem to have missed,” Das said. “Basically, I feel like a fool at the end of most days, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing and maybe I’m not alone.”

His Carnegie Hall performance comes two months after Das became the first Indian to win the International Emmy Award. The actor won for his fourth Netflix special, “Vir Das: Landing,” which came out on Christmas in 2022. 

Das told WSN that he started working on “Mind Fool” last March, and booked his current world tour after finalizing the material in May.

In comparison to “Landing” — where Das spoke about the aftermath of his controversial poem “I Come from Two Indias,” which was the subject of several police complaints from prominent Indian politicians — “Mind Fool” dives headfirst into laughter. In this show, Das demonstrates a deliberate shift to unapologetically go for a show that is playful, wanting the audience to leave feeling, in his words, “thrilled and fun.”

Despite being more laid-back than in “Landing,” Das still does the socially-aware bits that he has become known for. He shares his recent experiences with therapy and having to deal with the Mumbai police.

“There’s never been a better time to be a comedian,” said Das. “It’s dangerous again, it has something to say again and the audience is just as involved as the artist, which is very cool for this artform.”

Born in India, raised in Nigeria, then shuttled between private and public schools back in India before going to Illinois for college, Das added that one of the reasons he is able to make political and cultural jokes is because of his outsider perspective.

“When you get to broadly look at a country without trying to immerse yourself in it because you’re moving on to the next country, you really see a country, sometimes, for what it is because you have no agenda, just friendship and observation,” Das said. “Most people who are within the system have an agenda of immersion and if you don’t have that you get to truly objectively assess what the country is.”

However, some of Das’ jokes, such as the ones he makes about Gen Z and the transgender community, did come off as both distasteful and preachy. Das, who will turn 45 this May, acknowledged his age and said that his primarily younger millennial and Gen Z audience was a surprise.

“I have the youngest audience I’ve ever had, which is a weird thing, to be in your 40s and to have the majority of the audience be between 18 and 25 years old,” Das said. “It’s a cool thing I learned from them and I get to kind of yell at them a little bit, which is fun, too. But I did not expect to be at this age with such a young audience. It’s definitely strange for me.”

Though occasionally sailing into choppy waters with a few distasteful jokes in the first half, Das managed to right the ship with a stellar second act. Like a seasoned storyteller, Das tied in references brought up throughout the show, leading to a well-earned, rapturous applause.

Speaking to WSN in an interview after his New York City show, Das shared that he had wanted to perform at Carnegie Hall because of his comedic idol George Carlin’s commanding performance at the same venue. Witnessing his own show succeed in New York has fueled his excitement for the next stops in his world tour.

“What’s really great about performing at Carnegie Hall is to do it with my people,” said Das. “It’s not just my first time at Carnegie Hall, it’s for at least out of about 3,500 people, maybe 1,500 or 1,000 of them had never been to Carnegie Hall before, so you experience it together. A lot of these venues for New Yorkers are just around the corner, but it’s really across the universe for me.”

Contact Krish Dev at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with the other Multimedia Editors, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.
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