A comedy show that begins when the comedian awkwardly asks for help over the sound system because he is unable to figure out how to get on stage might sound like a disaster in the making. In actuality, it was a precursor to the many laughs in store for the audience filled with prospective students in Paresky Performance Space on Sunday night. Despite the initial setback, comedian Vidur Kapur quickly took back the stage with a personality that sparkled as much as his shiny silver tie.
Kapur, an openly gay comic of Indian descent, immediately endeared the audience by establishing a confidential and in-your-face rapport, where no topic was too sacred or taboo. Poking fun at political figures, religion, race and sexuality, Kapur kept the crowd engaged with audience participation and his impressive ability to modify his voice and physicality from joke to joke.
His appearance on campus was sponsored by the Office of Admissions and Gaudino Fund for Asian Awareness Month and Queer Pride Week. Fittingly, the many prospective students on campus for Previews Weekend rounded out a notably diverse crowd. “There are so many beautiful faces in here, it looks like the U.N!” Kapur joked.
Kapur started the show off by initiating cheering and clapping for different races and sexual orientations. While this might seem like an alienating experience, it had the effect of celebration, as the night would prove that appreciating and even laughing at the differences between each other can actually create a common bond. The relaxed and animated audience was especially receptive to the many side-splitting punch lines to come.
Snappy political commentary abounded as Kapur ripped apart popular events with a keen analytical eye. “I love scandal,” Kapur said. “Dirt and scandal – that’s what I’m all about.” Touching upon topics like the controversies surrounding former governors Eliot Spitzer and Jim McGreevey, Kapur said, “It’s kind of disturbing that Americans are so focused on the private sexual lives of politicians rather than what they’re doing for America,” a comment which illustrated the perceptive depth that added an intelligent aspect to his routine.
Sexuality was also a frequent topic of Kapur’s, as he changed his body and voice to depict hilarious, albeit stereotypical, impressions of different races and genders. His impression of an Indian couple having phone sex – “I’m wearing 12 yards of silk organza nicely pleated and tucked into my petticoat” – evoked big laughs from the crowd.
The show also had poignant moments, as the truth behind the humor hit home in a discussion-promoting way, as when Kapur discussed feeling excluded as an Indian gay immigrant. “Me, a terrorist?” Kapur said. “What am I going to do, build an Axis of Evil float for the pride parade?” While his jokes won big laughs, the somberness of being searched in airports and accused of being a member of Al Qaeda still forced audiences to think about the irony behind his words, even as we laughed – “Lose the white turban Osama, Labor Day is over!”
Kapur also discussed some topics that everyone could relate to, such as nagging mothers. His hilarious impression of his mom’s nit-picking was countered by the seriousness of the story itself: his family’s reactions to his coming out. Kapur even revealed contemplating suicide in graduate school because of having to hide his sexual orientation, but turned the matter light-hearted in his decision not to: “What if we Hindus are right about reincarnation and I have to come back as myself and go through that again – absolutely not!”
While Kapur’s upfront and at times vulgar humor generally resonated, some jokes didn’t connect right away, as when he mocked American portion sizes to a virtually all-American crowd, or let drop a huge bomb with attempting to joke about having a “crush on the Taliban” and quickly silenced the crowd. Other jokes were more unanimously successful, like mocking elevator farting habits and Facebook. “This generation’s boring,” Kapur said. “For fun, they send beer to each other on Facebook.”
Overall, Kapur captivated the crowd and was both fascinating and high energy. Were his jokes generalizations? Definitely. Was he hilarious? Absolutely. The best part about the show was that it wasn’t just meaningless humor or cheap laughs – the jokes were thought-provoking and his themes were universal. “All we need is love, acceptance and tolerance,” Kapur said, but this message was accompanied by sharp and biting humor that prevented it from sounding trite. Rather, his sincerity was genuinely heart-warming, but of course, balanced out by his signature humor: “You realize we’re all the same – gay, straight, brown, black, orange, Arnold Schwarzenegger.” This tongue-in-cheek mentality permeated a show that wasn’t just light entertainment.