In February I was not only lucky enough to catch the Comedy Night at Live Theatre, I was also able to sit down with the star, Nitin Mirani, on the fifth and final day of his Kuwait show. If you didn’t get the chance to see the show, don’t worry. Live Theatre will be serving up some more laughs soon and as Nitin Mirani believes world domination (comically speaking) will be his, through his planned international shows, soon you won’t be able to miss him- and trust me, you wouldn’t want to.
Nitin Mirani tells me he was an observant child; he loved watching people and still does, “I’ve always been a person who loves to observe mannerisms and how people react to situations – a little creepy, sitting and watching people – but I enjoyed seeing how different people react in the same situation. That used to make me smile.”
And this is an important point about Mirani; he takes what makes him smile and he passes it on to his audience. When you see him on stage you know that what he is telling you genuinely tickles him. I can imagine him noticing the idiosyncrasies he describes on stage for the first time and smiling, the onstage delivery already forming in his mind. Even as an adult he still gives off the vibe of an excitable child – one who has nothing but passion for his subject – he talks of comedy with such enthusiasm you can’t help but get caught up in his world view. He tells me that to make people laugh, to make them happy, is his path in life. He shies away from getting too philosophical but he knows now that this is his purpose in life. He tells me, “I’m not selling jokes, I’m buying laughter” and I believe him. It becomes clear that he seems to almost get more out of the transaction than the audience does. Making people laugh makes Nitin happy; not because of money, fame, success, but simply because he made you laugh. That’s all he’s looking for.
Before his career in comedy began Nitin sold French fries, music, real estate, clothes, credit cards, was a producer for ZTV, worked in event management and was a fashion choreographer! Through events and fashion shows he was exposed, and attracted, to the stage and working that many jobs upturned a wealth of observations about people and our weird and wonderful ways. Working in events, things inevitably went wrong and time needed to be filled. It was Nitin who was thrown on stage to do the filling. With nothing prepared this would be what comedians call ‘improv’, being tossed in at the deep end. Drowning is usually the simplest, and only, way out. When people came up to him later to tell him they enjoyed the event, but his filler five minutes were the highlight, he started thinking about his comedy more and more.
At a show called One Night Stand hosted at the Mövenpick Hotel in Dubai in 2008, Nitin was again asked to fill in, as one of the comedy acts hadn’t turned up. He stepped up and ended up outshining the main act. At the next show he was not only paid, but people came to see him specifically. Unfortunately he admits he then lost a year catering his comedy to Indians because he thought that being Indian obligated him to do Indian comedy. Then on February 13 2009 he stumbled upon a place called Comedy Lounge where Aron Kader, of Axis of Evil fame, was auditioning people. The next day Nitin brought the house downs (in Kader’s words) and made an important realization. The audience was a cultural melting pot – Indian, American, Lebanese, Arab, Spanish, South African, Filipino – and they were all laughing. Comedy was universal. “Just because I make coffee,” he tells me, “does not make it Indian coffee – it’s still coffee.”
Later tagged the ‘glocal comedian’, because he adds local flavor to global comedy, Nitin seems to be the perfect source of comedy in our ever-shrinking global village. He is able look past colour, money, status, and see only that which makes us human and what connects us on a fundamental level. When he performed on a USO ship in Dubai he was approached after the show by a Texan guy who told him, “Dude, my mum says the exact same words, that’s my mum!” Nitin tells me, “People from different, cultures, different backgrounds, different walks of life go through the exact same thing, essentially we’re all equal.”
He’s performed all over; Mumbai, Bangalore, Indore, Bahrain, Muscat, Goa and most recently, Hong Kong, Thailand, Maldives, Egypt, New York and Toronto! The show in New York was at Caroline’s on Broadway and was the first time in a long time that his legs were shaking before he went on stage. But the experience of performing on Broadway gave him the validation he needed, the confidence to know he was good at what he was doing. When he arrived in Kuwait to perform for five nights at Live Theatre he wasn’t concerned about offending people. “I don’t need to use bad language to be funny [although] the Middle East is the only place where I get paid to NOT say things, people hire me and say don’t talk about this, don’t talk about that and here’s your cheque.” But he loved that Kuwaitis were open to what he was doing and he was, as always, more than happy to be making them laugh. He admires what Jasem and Khalid Al Shaheen are doing at Live Theatre – like himself their only intention is to make people laugh, to give people good, clean entertainment. If anything he would describe his shows as naughty, rather than offensive.
He recently started acting, appearing in Dubai’s first international movie, City of Life. He is taking his Komic Sutra show on the road to South Africa, Manila, Australia, and he’ll be doing another Komic Sutra Dubai soon, too. He admits to me that Komic Sutra is really just an extension of himself because he couldn’t call his show Nitin Mirani – he’s too shy still. “Komic Sutra is my mask, my cape” he tells me. But it doesn’t matter what name he hides behind, when he’s onstage, Nitin Mirani the man, can’t help but you make you laugh. He always makes his show seem as local as possible and this is why it works. As he told us from the stage, when he arrived in Kuwait he wasn’t sure if he should say ‘Salaamu `Alaykum’ or ‘Wa `alaykum s-salām’. Maybe you never noticed that when you fly into Kuwait International Airport you arrive in departures and when you fly out you go from arrivals – they’re the same place. People can be too busy to notice the minutiae of everyday life – the little things. God is in the details as they say and it’s Nitin’s job to help us notice them.
“Stand-up comedy is pure, it’s unplugged. You have to let your guard down and expose yourself to people and hope they embrace you,” he tells me. To me this seems to apply not only to comedy, but to life in general. He tells me that, unlike most people today, he’s not in a particular hurry to get anywhere because he plans on making people laugh for a long time, and he’s in no rush to stop doing that.
*Images courtesy of Tina Patni.