Confessions of a Failed Comic
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Confessions of a Failed Comic

If you examine the relationship between politics and stand-up comedy, the similarity is startling. In India, political decisions often lead to results which are a form of high comedy: what is real becomes comic. By contrast, in the US the comic stands on the new threshold for politics: the comic is often realized as politics. Did I tell you the one about the politician who went on an election campaign which became a stand-up comedy act when he was elected President?

I like humour; it makes me laugh. I mean look at me. When I was dating I always put in a line about my sense of humour. Women love that. I love women, from both sides. People really appreciate my lines; I always get a good laugh. You know why? Because I always write my own material. You can’t leave it to some hack. The thing about stand-up is that your own life experience is what counts. People know if you are lying or you are making up stuff. I have no problem with that. Humour helps you deal with pain and adversity and stuff like that. I remember last year when there was a famine in Nigeria or Nairobi or some place, and people were dying like flies, I spilled some orange juice in my Cadillac, it was pretty horrible, but I said to myself look at the bright side. It could have happened in the Rolls. So you gotta be grateful, otherwise life deals you a shitty hand. Speaking of deals, when I bought my first plane, I got the dealer – you know one of those coloured guys, I mean a guy with colour – to throw in a wiper for free…Hell, I said, what if it’s raining, and I have to go to Florida.

Funny guys get a lot of attention. You got to laugh, even in the worst of situations. The best kind of humour is if you can make the other guy feel small, you know, like a piece of shit. If you are going to tell a joke best to do it at someone’s expense. Many people laugh at themselves; what are they, stupid, or what? It’s a big man who can joke at people’s misfortune, that’s the interesting thing about humour. When things get ugly, you can at least laugh.

One time I was working with this Chinese stand-up. Some guy called Xin Ping or Xi Zing, I don’t know. They have such funny names. Why can’t they be Fred or Joe; I don’t understand. He kept talking like those waiters in one of those Chinese restaurants, sounding like a guy just off the boat. The worst are Russians; never work with Russians. They’ll always try to steal your ideas. When I was writing this routine about democracy and free speech, some real rolling-in-the-aisle stuff, this Russian guy tried to hack my account. I don’t know how he did that; I only gave him my password, nothing else. But that got the manager really worked up. He said that if I was trying to collude with him he’d never let me work the club again. I didn’t know what he meant so I checked the dictionary for collusion but couldn’t find it, so I guess there is no collusion. Some people like using big words. I made a sentence with the word contemporary once, then I dropped it and put in ‘modern’ so people would understand. I don’t like to show off like some guys. They can just look at me and tell I’m smart. When you go to the best schools in the country, words come naturally. I have a great vocabulary, believe me. One of the best. It’s unique. Like my hair.

Once there was this black guy, I guess he was African American. I don’t know why we can’t say black any longer. You know, use the B word. It’s like Fake News: you have to be politically correct, even if it’s a lie. Anyhow, this guy used to work the same joint before me. He got pretty pissed off because I told the club manager he wasn’t from around here, and they should check his id. That got him riled, really riled. They were going to throw him out of the club. Then some Jew guy got it in him that I was racist. That’s a lie. I’m not racist at all. I love all kinds of people, black people, white people, racists, everyone. Truth is, people don’t really matter to me. I don’t care what colour they are, as long as they are white and can pay. If you think about it, there are good racists and bad racists, and there are racists on both sides.

That reminds me, I was doing a show for this club in DC; they sent me to the Middle East, somewhere in Saudi Arabia. I knew these guys wore white sheets there, and I remembered my dad had couple of sheets hidden under the bed, so I took them along. They made me perform in this big hall with chandeliers, fake carpets, and daggers, and all; it was really nice. Great fun. Just like Vegas. They were real good to me, but I tell you, it was good to get back to the good old U of SA. It’s one hell of a great country, isn’t it? I wouldn’t trade it for any other place. I certainly like it better than Nigeria and Nicaragua and Nantucket. Even more than Norway, though I don’t think Norway is a country. It’s the capital of Scandinavia, isn’t it? In fact my folks came from Scandinavia, near Sweden somewhere. They were real smart. I guess they took my genes, and never gave them back. In this world you got all kinds of people. From both sides.

Thing is people’s race doesn’t really matter, as long as they are picking apples in California, and don’t become Supreme Court judges. But if they think they can get into our country so easily they are dreamers. You have to send them back where they came from, whether it’s Haiti, or Harlem, or Hackensack – those places called shithole countries. By shithole I don’t mean shithole metaphorically, or as a simile, or even a quadratic equation. I only mean it euphemistically, which is my way of saying I went to an Ivy League school. Then you can build the wall. You can’t build the wall first, otherwise how do you send them back. Truth is I don’t mind if a couple of undocumented workers get in, but if it helps keep the Democrats out, hell, I say build the wall. And make them pay for it.

People keep telling me to stay away from political material. Politics doesn’t bother me. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Whether you talk about trade or health-care or taxes it doesn’t matter what you say; it’s all in the delivery, the punch-line. What you say, what you mean, and what you do are four very different things, you know what I mean.

I remember doing this show in the White House, talking about filling the Supreme Court seat with Kim Jong-un and people thought it was a joke. But I was serious. It’s the only way to get him out of our hair, and put him where he can’t hurt anyone. It’s good diplomacy or democracy, whatever. I know this guy; he’s a real jerk. He’s not like me; all he wants is attention. So he fires off a missile here, a Tweet there. Guy must have had a sad life. Real sad. It shows on his face. If I were him I’d kill myself, maybe jump off the Queensboro Bridge. Now there’s a real beaut, a real nice bridge. I’d make a real splash, you know what I mean. I always make a splash.

Doc, I know people accuse me of shooting off my mouth but I’m a comedian; that’s what we do. I can’t stand there in front of the TV cameras knowing the whole world is watching and act like I’m president of the United States. Now, can I?

Gautam Bhatia

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