Comic Samson Koletkar, who calls himself “the world’s only Indian Jewish comedian,” brings his Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour to the Forum Theatre at El Portal Theatre in Los Angeles for three performances on September 4th. Bearing the subtitle “An Indian, A Jew, and an Indian Jew,” Koletkar’s show, which is 90 minutes in length, features three culturally and intellectually diverse comedians who have two things in common: South and Southeast Asian ancestry, and the love to make people laugh. After the September 4th performances, the Koletkar will head to San Francisco.
Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Koletkar immigrated to San Francisco to work as an IT consultant before switching to comedy. He believes that being a first-generation Indian Jew in America gives him a unique perspective.
“We touch on a lot of sensitive issues — race, immigration, religion — but our goal is not to offend or shock people; it’s to make them think,” he said in a statement. “I try to stay away from humor based solely on stereotypes. I do material that is relevant to audiences not just in America but other countries as well.”
Something the stars of the Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour will not do is use profanity or vulgarity, although they do occasionally comment on mature topics. For Koletkar, the decision to work “clean” has less to do with his roots from a culturally conservative country than what risqué humor says about the comedians who use it.
“We choose not to do it,” he stated. “Some comedians curse and swear because it seems easier and natural. Our conscious effort is to push ourselves beyond what comes easily and instinctively.”
That strategy seems to be working. In his first year as a comedian, Koletkar was a finalist in the Rooster T. Feathers amateur comedy competition. The following year, he won the Halloween Comedy Contest in Pleasanton, California. He has toured with
“Pundits with Punchlines” and “Make Chai Not War.” He has also performed at clubs, colleges, corporations, and fundraisers in New York, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Utah, California, Toronto, and Mumbai. Since 2009, he has produced the weekly show Comedy Off Broadway Oakland in Oakland, California.
Joining Koletkar on the Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour are Dhaya Lakshminarayanan (an Indian Hindu) and Joe Nguyen (a Vietnamese Jew). Koletkar describes Nguyen as the most laid-back of the team, who would rather tell jokes about his personal trials and tribulations than stir up politics and religion. Born to a Vietnamese immigrant and a Caucasian Jew from the Dominican Republic, Nguyen is now based in San Francisco, where he produces a weekly comedy showcase. He was also the winner of the 2009 Russian River Comedy Competition.
“I’d like to think that my act is a good balance of jokey-jokes and storytelling, which means I am always going for what I think are clever punchlines, but I keep every joke based in truth,” Nguyen said. “I’m excited about this tour because we are getting the opportunity to travel as a group and develop and promote a pretty unique brand of comedy that is both clean and clever.”
Lakshminarayanan, the self-described nerd in the group, takes an intellectual approach to comedy, which is not surprising, considering the fact that she is a mathematics whiz who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Raised by Indian parents in Alabama and Georgia, she also brings a unique Southern perspective to her act. She has toured nationally as one of “Five Funny Females” and won first place in the 2007 “Battle of the Bay” competition.
“The Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour showcases that stand-up can be cerebral, informative, positive, and inspiring,” she added in a released statement. “As the sole woman on the tour, I have the liberty to comment on gender, race, politics, science, social media, and culture from my perspective, without resorting to low-brow topics that often turn off audiences.”
Also appearing as special guests of the Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour are Los Angeles-based comedians Asim Kaleem and Abhay Nadkarni. Kaleem, a native of Karachi, is a comedian and actor who has performed at The Comedy Store and The Downtown Comedy Club in Los Angeles. His TV credits include NBC’s Trauma and ABC’s Flash Forward. He will also be seen in the forthcoming motion picture MoneyBall, starring Brad Pitt.
Nadkarni, a Bangalore native, brings a whole new edge to stand-up from an immigrant’s perspective. Most of his comedy centers on a guy just trying to fit in. He has performed at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, The Ice House in Pasadena, The Improv in Hollywood, and elsewhere.
Together, “the Indian, the Jew, and the Indian Jew” promise an evening of laughter and international introspection. Koletkar, who regularly sells out comedy clubs in the San Francisco bay area, is convinced that his group’s clean, intelligent approach to humor is attracting a whole new audience.
“A lot of people shy away from regular comedy clubs because of the extent to which the line is pushed,“ Koletkar stated. “I want to reach out to people who appreciate clean, thoughtful humor. Everywhere we perform, we are finding that there is an audience for us.”
The Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour will appear at Forum Theatre at El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, on Saturday, September 4th at 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Recommended for ages 18 and above.
Tickets ranged from $12 to $20. Information and reservations are available at the show’s website or by calling (415) 676-1371.
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