Dan Nainan, Half Indian, Half Japanese, Fully Funny
1. Your father is Indian and your mother is Japanese. How do you see yourself?
A: Being born here I identify most with being American. Until recently I had no idea who Amitabh Bachchan was. However, when I was a child we hung around mostly with Indians, so I was subjected to many Indian functions growing up. So I sat through many awful talent shows, four-hour Malayalee weddings, and of course Indians never want to pay for a babysitter so you have children running around screaming at all these events.
2. Does this mixed heritage make for some very funny stand up comedy?
A: I like to think so. Everyone I meet tells me they’ve never met an Indian-Japanese comedian before. I think I’m the only Indian Japanese comedian, unless my sister decides to take up the profession.
3. What’s the South Asian material that draws the most laughs?
A: South Asian audiences are really wonderful about laughing at themselves. So I think it’s the things that are really true that draw the most laughs, for example the outsourcing jokes or the jokes about Bollywood films.
4. And the Japanese anecdote?
A: I was driving with my whole family and we saw some cows grazing in a field. My father pointed out that the word graze could have a lot of different meanings, and I said for example you can be grazed by a bullet, and then my mother said “or it’s a kind of doughnut.” The funniest part of this is that she actually meant it! The Japanese have a big problem distinguishing between the L and the R – as Indians have a problem with the V and the W.
5. Do the Japanese find you funny?
A: South Asian audiences are the most receptive. I don’t think the Japanese are as expressive; it’s not really part of their culture. Once I performed at a Japanese show and when I started, I yelled out, “Come on, make some noise, who here is from Japan?” fully expecting everybody to yell “Woo-Hoo” or “Banzai” or “Bonsai” or something like that but instead they all raised their hands! Afterwards a few people came up and said they didn’t understand the doughnut joke!
6. What do you eat at home?
A: I love going home, because my mother makes a combination of Indian, Japanese and American food. Of course the first day I come home she always makes keema for me. Even though she’s Japanese she has become quite a fire breather because of my father. She absolutely loves mango pickles.
7. What’s the line that never fails to make South Asians laugh?
A: It’s the line where I say that it’s just a matter of time before Indian companies start outsourcing to poor Americans who are pretending to be Indian. (In a southern accent, “Thank you for calling Air India. This is Mahatma Gandhi.”)
8. Do you have a lucky talisman?
A: Unfortunately I am a complete atheist and do not believe in anything except science. No religion, no astrology, no professional wrestling, so I would have to say no to a talisman.
9. Any chance your dad might get you into an arranged marriage?
A: My father tried fixing me up with various Malayalee women, but it was always a disaster. I went to one girl’s house and when the door opened, I asked her “Is your daughter here?” But it turned out that that actually was the daughter!
10. You must be having a lot of fun with Indian and Japanese last names and accents?
A: Yes, I thank God that I didn’t get a combination Indian Japanese name like Sanjay Hajimoto, or Mahatma Mitsubishi.
11. Any real life funny incidents?
A: I was backstage at an Intel event and was talking to a security guard who was a Muslim Indian. I asked him what the reasoning was behind having multiple wives in Islam. He told me that the reason was if you want to have relations with your wife, but she has her periodical, then you need to have another wife or two. He actually said the word periodical. I almost fell over laughing.
12. Any plans to take your show on the road to India?
A: Now that I know who Amitabh Bachchan is, a lot of people are encouraging me to do an act where I do impressions of him. Of course I would love to go to India. Last time I was there I was only six years old, and it was extremely crowded and overpopulated, so imagine what it will be like now since there are twice as many people in India as when I was last there!