3 years ago Anish Shah was a Yale MBA who had spent the past 5 years working his way up the ladder at venerable consulting firm, McKinsey & Company. However he has spent 2012 working full-time to raise money for charity through stand-up comedy. So, what inspired him to walk away from his successful corporate career to focus full-time on comedy? Urban Asian had a chance to sit down with him and find out.
This is the first look at the comedy special being released in September, and Urban Asian has the first look!
UA: What inspired you to try stand-up comedy?
Anish: I wandered into an open mic a few years ago during a particularly “interesting” time in my life. I got up on stage and just did material I had written that day. It was a way to express myself and it just clicked. People were laughing. I felt at home, comfortable, like it a key fitting into a lock for the first time. Since then it’s been an intense ride and I’m just seeing where the roller coaster will go next while I pretend to steer.
UA: What are the sources of inspiration for your jokes?
Anish: The inspiration comes from the world around me. We live in an amazing world where some of us do amazing things like send rovers to Mars and others of us spend way too much time googling ourselves. (I won’t tell you which type I am but I will tell you if you Google me, I will be the 4th “Anish Shah” in the search results which of course means I have to destroy the lives of 3 other Anish Shah’s.)
UA: Why did you choose to pursue comedy despite your MBA from Yale University?
Anish: Why settle for simply taking the biggest risk of your life, when you can take the biggest risk of your life AND have a $100k in student loans?
UA: How did your parents feel about your non-traditional, un-stereotypical career choice?
Anish: I believe they said, “At least he won’t put us in a nursing home because he won’t be able to afford it.” Honestly, they’ve been super supportive and my mom is basically the star of my current act, which she (secretly) loves.
UA: Where is one place you would love to travel and host your show?
Anish: I would gather all the women that have ever turned me down. The show would be me hanging out with a girl who is playing my girlfriend. Over the course of the night we’d cook dinner together, plan our upcoming apple picking trip, and then I would bake a giant chocolate cake that we’d share while talking about our feelings. The show would be called, “Coulda been you”. On second thought, maybe I should come up with something less crazy. Canada. I’d love to do a show in Canada. Can we get rid of that first part?
UA: If you weren’t a comedian what would have you gone into?
Anish: A doctor. Like a big time doctor. Neurosurgeon. How’s that feel, Mom? So close…yet so far.
UA: Which comedians inspire you?
Anish: Everyone knows the big stars so I’ll leave them out and focus on friends I love watching and learning from (with an Indian bent given the publication)
The ones you might know: Azhar Usman, Hari Kondabholu, Rajiv Satyal
The ones you’ll know soon: Saurin Choksi, Prashant Venkataramunjam, Andrew Voris, Nimesh Patel, Akaash Singh
UA: Where are your favorite places to perform?
Anish: Emceeing weddings or charity events or performing at corporate events. I do a ton of them and they are great fun because everyone wants to have a good time! Recently I did an event where I got to perform for the Indian ambassador which was pretty amazing.
UA: As a South Asian comedian, did you face any obstacles trying to make it in the mainstream industry?
Anish: To be honest, I think being South Asian has been a bigger advantage than disadvantage. South Asians as a group seem to be really excited to see their peers branching into new areas and are genuinely excited to come see you do try it. It makes it easier when you know you have the support of a billion or so people.
UA: You recently headlined a sold-out show in Chicago as part of the No Laughing Matter to support Save A Mother, a Chicago-based non profit. Tell us a little bit about the comedy tour and how you decided to work with Save A Mother.
Anish: I was such a terror as a young boy that I felt like I owed something not just to my Mom but to all moms. This is the sort of guilt you carry when as a child you decide there is no difference between a dishwasher and a toilet. Save A Mother came along and it seemed like the perfect way to give back to mom’s. It’s a charity that saves mothers lives during the complications of pregnancy and child birth. Via these shows in Chicago (was on May 13th), L.A. (Aug. 15th), NYC (Sept. 13th), and the release of the Save A Mother comedy special, we will raise $100k+ by the end of the year. We may do a final show in India to cap the whole thing off. All of this will help a lot of moms give birth to boys who will also pee in their mom’s dishwashers. If that’s not the circle of life, I don’t know what is.
UA: How can people learn more about Save a Mother?
Anish: They can visit: www.SaveAMother.org
UA: How can people purchase tickets to No Laughing Matter?
Anish: For the show on Aug 15th at the Laugh Factory, LA:
And for the show on Sept 13th at Carolines on Broadway, NYC:
UA: Who will be performing with you during the No Laughing Matter Comedy Tour at the Laugh Factory LA this Wednesday and at Carolines on Broadway NYC on September 13?
Anish: We are really excited for our line-ups in both cities! We were lucky to have Parvesh Cheena (best known as Gupta from NBC’s Outsourced) at the show in Chicago.
– Melanie Kannokada – Named the most sexy and successful woman around by Anokhi Magazine, this model and actress has been on Rules of Engagement, The Daily Show, and countless other places. She’ll be doing stand-up for the first time!
– MONROK – Last Comic Standing, named “California’s Funniest Female,” CBS Diversity Showcase, and she’s hot.
– Rajiv Satyal – NBC; NPR; WSJ; XM/Sirius; 2012 7-City Tour of India.
– Prashant Venkataramanujam – Winner Great American Comedy Festival.
– Pritesh Shah – Starring in Wassup En LA.
– Sketchcomedyshow.com featuring Surina Jindal, Kelly Campbell, Kunal Dudheker and Jason Owsley.
– Saurabh Kikani – The Comedy Store, The Improv.
– Snehal Patel – LA Filmmaker moving from behind the camera to the stage
And in NY the line-up currently includes:
– Joya Dass – NY1 Business Anchor and AVS Host performing stand-up comedy for the first time!
– The Urban Nerd (Raj Jhaveri) – Youtube Comedian, Sony TV and UrbanAsian TV Host, performing stand-up for the first time!
– Azhar Usman – He has performed in over 20 countries, recently did the Make Chai Not War tour of India through the US State Dept, and was named by CNN as the Funniest Muslim in America.
– Rajiv Satyal – Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes, XM radio, Sirius Radio, Make Chai Not War, and he’s bald.
– Nimesh Patel – One of New York’s fastest rising comedy talents
– Akaash Singh – MTV, NBC’s Stand-up for Diversity, Hoboken Comedy Festival
– Nivedita Kulkarni – She loves improv and is also a model who is the face of Bank of America!
UA: Any final thoughts for our readers?
Anish: If you want to come to the shows, see the special when it comes out, or date me, come find me on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/anishcomedy.
Movie? The Usual Suspects
Actor? Aamir Khan
Actress? Madhuri. Always.
Food? The tiramisu at Chicken Fiesta
Book? US Weekly
Inspirational Leader? Kung Fu Panda