He’s fifty percent Japanese and fifty percent Indian, so does that make him a Lexus-Nano hybrid? Or a Toyota-Ambassador? This might be my own sorry attempt at stand-up, but Dan Nainan’s mixed heritage has certainly had him laughing all the way to the moolah house. Always squeaky clean, his humor has found many takers in the South Asian community across the diaspora.
A computer specialist turned comic, Nainan’s performances have taken him to major American cities as well as far-flung parts of the globe. He’s just back from six shows in four cities in India — Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, and Bangalore, and now is planning to head out to Dubai. He’s certainly performed for diverse audiences – from a group of 6000 doctors to Donald Trump at his golf course! He’s also performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver as the guest of US Congressman Mike Honda, as well as at three Obama inaugural events in Washington last year, where he says, Maya, the president’s sister, told him she loved his act.
And yes, he’s also been seen on the Apple commercial which showed nationally across the US, and performed at the TED-India Conference. Looks like good times or bad, humor is an asset that doesn’t get devalued.
Enjoy the video!
Funny man Dan Nainan answers some serious questions:
Q: What are the advantages of being Indian and Japanese?
A: That’s kind of funny – it sounds like you’re asking the question as if being Indian and Japanese is something that you can actually choose, LOL. Well, if nothing else, it makes for very interesting food choices at home!
When I took my very first comedy class, I asked the teacher whether it would be a disadvantage in comedy to be a racial mix. She replied that on the contrary, that it would turn out to be an incredible advantage and boy did that turn out to be true! Of course, being of mixed race makes for an endless array of ethnic jokes, and since I have two races, I have twice as much material to draw from.
One thing that is truly amazing to me is that more and more commercials, television shows and movies are casting ethnic and ethnically ambiguous actors. This is absolutely astounding to me. 10 years ago, I don’t think a guy like me could have ever been in a commercial, but now, things have completely flip-flopped. I’ve met a couple of casting agents who actually say it is a tremendous disadvantage to be blonde haired and blue-eyed right now!
Q. With a Japanese mom and an Indian father what’s served on the table?
A: Well, since my mother is from Japan, an island nation, and my father is from Kerala, on the coast of India, of course we had a tremendous amount of fish going up — both sushi and KFC (Kerala Fish Curry). So I guess you could say growing up, we had one third Japanese, one third Indian food and one third American food. It was a culinary cornucopia!
Q. Who are your audiences and what makes them laugh out loud?
A: Of course my primary audience is South Asian. I would say that 95% of my shows are South Asian. What makes them laugh out loud? Funny jokes, of course. When you are a comedian, the objective is to get every single person in the audience to laugh out loud at every single one of your jokes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
Q: Has it been hard to find humor in the tough economy scenario?
A: You know, it’s really incredible… I thought for sure that comedy was going to tank when the economy dipped, but surprisingly, quite the opposite happened! Actually, my most successful year was last year. As you may have heard, last year was the most successful ever for movies. I think people will always need entertainment, no matter what, and I think another factor is that in a recession, fewer people take long vacations away from home, so they actually have a little bit more money to spend if they stay around town. I don’t think that many people go to see comedy when they are on exotic vacations, but if they stay around town, comedy is a fantastic night out.
Q: What humor have you been able to draw from the Obama presidency?
I have just started doing impressions of Obama. He’s a little bit more difficult to imitate than Clinton or Bush, since he’s not quite as “charactery” as the previous two presidents.
Q: So what are your typical days like?
A: I spend my winters in Los Angeles to get away from the cold. I’ve been especially thankful for that this year because of all the snow that completely inundated the Northeast – I missed it all, thank goodness. Having a part in a national commercial for Apple last year convinced me that commercials are the way to go. The residuals from national commercials are amazing — the checks just keep coming and coming. Of course, since filming for commercials, movies and television pretty much takes place during the weekdays, I’m still continuing to tour around the country and the world doing my standup on weekends – it’s the perfect situation!
That’s Dan Nainan for you. As he says, he’s thankful to his parents for not naming him Sanjay Hajimoto or even Mahatma Mitsubishi!