Why is this American Indian comic the man in the middle?
He is the man in the middle in many ways. Indian-American comedian, he is equally at ease in the United States and in India. His work includes the highly watched viral video I AM INDIAN (more than 50 million views) and his most recent complementary piece I AM AMERICAN. He co-created with his Indian-American partner Azhar Usman a Hindu/Muslim stand up show Make Chai Not War, which the State Department sponsored for a tour of the subcontinent. And last week, he brought his The Man in the Middle to Capitol Hill to address, among other things, a deficit of laughter in the United States, making him probably the first comedian to act in the House of Representatives.
In a way, it has taken me 20 years to move a block, he jokes, because in 1999 he interned for Republican Congressman Steve Chabot. It was when he graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in materials engineering. He was already venturing into the comedy by inspiration of his brother Rakesh Satyal, who encouraged him to participate in the funniest Person contest in Cincinnati (he reached the semifinals in 1998 and won the title next year), although he was far from political . days.
After a quick dekko in Washington DC, he went to work at Proctor and Gamble between 2000 and 2006, all the time perfecting his material and wondering if he should give up a corporate life for comedy concerts. It was finally launched in 2008, working in comedy clubs (currently included, a weekly concert at Laugh Factory in Hollywood) and opening for artists like Dave Chappelle, before appearing in 2013 with No Man's Land, his own ... person shows about dating (which by the way led to marriage). In 2017, his one-person music program, Taking a Stand, led him to become the first stand-up comic to act on Spotify. In the middle, he opened for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in front of 17,000 people in Silicon Valley, exposing it to the public desi at home (his video I AM INDIA is now routinely used in foreign events of Prime Minister Modi, of Dubai to Shanghai).
But it is his return to Capitol Hill this week, part of a nationwide tour of The Man in The Middle, which has created a stir at a time in Washington DC and, in fact, the entire United States is in full ferment politically and bitterly divided. This does not have to be this way, Satyal argues; There may be disagreements without rancor. In fact, Satyal does not hide the fact that he is not a fan of Donald Trump. A flyer for the program said it will invite Representatives, Senators and President Pence. But the program itself, labeled #TheFoolOnTheHill with the self-contempt that is typical of stand-ups, leans toward the middle, taking photos. to both Democrats and Republicans when Satyal tries to make sense of what is happening in the United States.
Much of the material is drawn from his own experience, including the personal journey of how he is dealing with the fact that his father voted for Trump (the mother is a Democrat). A large amount of material also focuses on the wider experience of Indian immigrants, including conflicting political drives in the Indian-American community. We are minorities, so we support Democrats, but we are also rich, so we support Republicans, he jokes, and points out that support for the Republican Party among American Indians could also be due to their elephant symbol, which Indians see as Mr. Ganesh. On the problem of illegal border crossing, he wonders why the United States should not be surprised by the Mexican invasion: you cannot name a border state of New Mexico and not expect Mexicans to come see it. The comedy is clean and well crafted, and good for 9 and more because that seems to be the intellectual level of many elected officials.
To fine tune the script, Satyal hired Pat Hazell, who wrote in Seinfeld, and who told him something very insightful: The show is not about Trump; It's about you. People don't want to come to a show and watch someone rant about someone else. He is not in the room, you are. The end result, when he performed The Man in the Middle in his hometown of Cincinnati, where probably half of the audience was made up of Trump voters, received a big ovation.
The same goes for Capitol Hill, where a crowd of people just applauded their feat of having a Democrat and a Republican telling a joke before the camera. Satyal, who will be performing in Mumbai next week, says that his goal at this time is to make as many people watch the show as possible, since he has a message of unity, although nothing would make him happier than watching him leave. Trump, except maybe Netflix special that his former roommate and friend has nailed.