Forget The Namesake. Screw Kal Penn. Slumdog what? The hottest Indian export these days is sexy n sassy comedian Vijai Nathan. Her one woman show, Give Them Vagina: Tips from Mom, Dad & COSMO, is a devastatingly funny takedown of her life as a single lady out on the dating scene. Though Nathan grew up in a very traditional and formal Hindu household, her brand of comedy knows no cultural boundaries and takes no prisoners. Imagine Sex and the City mixed with My Life on the D List and a Chris Rock monologue, and youre somewhere in the ballpark.
Give Them Vagina is the culmination of over a decade of work as a standup and storytelling starlet (You may have caught her at a local SpeakeasyDC performance), but, as you might expect, an incendiary title like this one has helped Nathan attract a whole new audience.
Washington City Paper: With a show title like Give Them Vagina, youre bound to attract some odd attention online.
Vijai Nathan: I did have one stalker who proposed marriage. It was my first Facebook proposal and I have to say that I was tempted, because he said all the right things, Youre so beautiful and so talented. But he was desperately crazy to be with me, so that didnt happen. I feel kind of famous now that I have a stalker.
WCP: What was the inspiration for the show?
VN: This is my third solo show and my previous shows talked a lot about growing up and childhood. This show is me right now being in my thirties, single, and trying to date. Im finally at this age where I let it all hang out; Im not as worried about what people think of me. I really wanted to write a show that was funny and didnt necessarily show the best side of me, but was relatable.
WCP: What does your family make of the young woman that youve become?
VN: They have been along for this ride as much as I have. I started doing standup in 1997 and everyone thought I was a little crazy. I quit my job as a journalist at the Baltimore Sun and cancelled my engagement to become a standup comedian. Id always been the responsible one in my family and done the right thing, because Id seen how much my sisters fucked up. I went to a good school, had a good job, had a good fiancÃ©, and was miserable, miserable, miserable. When I started doing standup, I felt like I had finally found what I was meant to do. When my parents first came to see me, Id been doing it for a while and they were able to see how much the audience liked me. And they were like, Oh, this is something shes good at. And when an Indian parent sees that their child is good at something, then theyre like, ‘If youre good at this, then you must become the best. You must get a masters in standup comedy.’ Which is something my dad actually wanted me to do. They dont always understand my comedy, but they love that the audience love me. Theyre very proud of me. My father always tells me that no one ever asks him what my sisters the lawyer and the doctor are doing, they ask him what the comedian is doing.
WCP: Is there any material youve ever not shared with your family?
VN: My first one woman show I was hesitant about, because I was transitioning from pure standup into long-form monologue. I did this story about losing my virginity, finding these porn magazines my father had, almost getting caught, and then lying about losing my virginity. I did this show ten years after all that happened and I was scared how they were going to react to me sharing my own secrets and our family secrets. I didnt know if my dad was going to be thrilled that I was telling everyone that he had a stash of Playboy magazines and sex books. But after the show, I asked my father what he thought and he thought it was hilarious. He loved all the sex stuff! My mom then asked me what golden showers are. (laughs)
WCP: Do you think this show will shatter some Indian stereotypes, or give rise to some new ones?
VN: (laughs) The super slut? For me, I needed to write from the perspective of a single American woman in my thirties. There is that aspect that I am Indian—because thats unavoidable—but I dont think the show is focused on my background as much. Im hoping to widen my audience, because I dont want to be seen as a performer thats only for South Asians. I want more whores at my shows, because South Asians just arent slutty enough.
WCP: Do the men you date worry about showing up in your material?
VN: I can only promise that it takes me a little while to process, so you wont show up right away. Maybe because Im a comedian I dont get asked out a lot, because guys might be intimidated by that. All my stuff is based on everything that happens to me, so if youre in my life, you will end up in my material.
WCP: Of all the shows at Fringe this year, why should people go see yours?
VN: (laughs) Because I will give them vagina!
Give Them Vagina: Tips from Mom, Dad & COSMO plays at various times and dates at Chief Ikes Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Rd., NW. $15. (202) 332-2211.