Multiple People Have Been Angry at My Jokes, Filed PILs: Vir Das

Vir Das’s show on Audible Suno is called ‘Be Stupid’.

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Comedian Vir Das is launching an audio show on Audible Suno called ‘Be Stupid’, where people across the country narrate incidents where they have done extremely silly things. Ahead of its release Vir spoke to The Quint about working on an audio platform, freedom of expression for artistes and a line he wouldn’t cross when it comes to comedy.

I want to start by asking you - since this is an audio platform, how much do you listen to audio shows and podcasts? And is it a new thing for you?

Vir Das: It’s a new kind of performance for me, but I’ve been listening to them for a while. There are four or five things that I listen to religiously. There’s a podcast called ‘You Need To Know This’, which is just about things you need to know, like if your boat is drowning take off your shoes if you’re ever drowning in the ocean. Just random things like that because I’m a bit of a trivia junkie.

I’m a fan of Jeeturaaj, so he’s somebody that I would listen to or the various kinds of Jeeturaaj are people that I would listen to over and again. ‘Anything News’, ‘This American Life’- I like true crime as well, so I listen to ‘Serial’ and all. But what I like about it is that the best conversations I’ve had with people I don’t remember what they were wearing or how they looked or what the room was. It was just purely audible. I remember what they said. So I feel like platforms like ‘Audible Suno’ cuts out the distractions for storytelling. It’s pure storytelling in that sense.

But why is this show on Audible Suno called ‘Be Stupid’?

Vir Das: So when Audible Suno was launching in India, I had done a speech for college kids called the ‘Be Stupid’ speech and it went viral. So we just found fifteen people who had done really stupid things. So there’s this boy who is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro even though he has an auto immune disease and every doctor has told him not to do it. He’s like, I’m doing it next week. There is a girl who went to Goa in a hundred rupees.

I’ve seen your social media and do you feel like the times we live in, given the political climate and everything else, do you feel like you’re censoring yourself? That you’re thinking twice about the content you’re putting out, whether it is on your show or on social media?

Vir Das: I’ve kind of made a career out of not thinking, so maybe I am the wrong guy to ask about that. I don’t think much. I’m going to be clear, there is no pressure on me to conform to any idea. I’ll say what I need to say, the response to it I cannot control. Now at the end of the day what a lot of us talk about is, let’s say I put something out. And it’s offensive to the five per cent of the people that read it, so?

What happens? If somebody is offended by comedy, the solution to that is more comedy. And if you don’t like this particular comedy, there are so many comedians. You’ll find some comedy that you will enjoy. It’s a big joint family having dinner at the table and not everyone likes ‘Bhindi’ (ladyfinger).

There will be one crazy uncle who is upset with that, and let him continue to yell about the ‘Bhindi’. That’s my philosophy.

What’s a line you wouldn’t cross when it comes to comedy?

Vir Das: I don’t think there is one. I think the audience will let you know. I have a moral compass, so it’s my own moral compass. I think anybody who can’t fight back, punching down. Punch at people who can fight back, so yeah don’t make fun of people who are severely ill. You don’t make fun of children beyond a certain point or in a certain context. But what’s beautiful about this profession rather than anything else, there is an instant learning in stand-up. In a film, you make it and then you don’t know whether it is offensive for nine months and then it comes out and you find out that it’s offensive. If you crack a bad joke or an offensive joke you find out in three milliseconds. The audience slaps you with silence. And there is nothing worse than that silence in the world. I’ve had multiple PILs, I’ve had multiple people angry at me. There’s nothing worse than a failed joke.

Camera: Sanjoy Deb
Assistant Camera: Gautam Sharma
Video Editor: Ashish MacCune

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