Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour Comes to Los Angeles 9/4

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An Indian, a Jew and an Indian Jew walk onto a stage...Sounds like a set-up for a joke, doesn’t it? Well, it’s no joke, but it does set up a very funny evening of cross-cultural comedy. Dhaya Lakshminarayanan (an Indian Hindu), Joe Nguyen (a Vietnamese Jew) and Samson Koletkar (an Indian Jew) bring their hilarity and their disparity to the stage. Three thoughtful individuals with overlapping identities but unique perspectives share their absurdities, anomalies and adventures that are guaranteed to make you laugh.

Samson Koletkar, the world's only Indian Jewish comedian, brings his "Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour" to the Forum Theatre at El Portal Theatre in Los Angeles for three performances on Sept. 4. Billed as "An Indian, A Jew, and an Indian Jew," the show features three culturally and intellectually diverse comedians who have two things in common-they are of Southeast Asian ancestry, and they like to make people laugh.

Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Koletkar immigrated to San Francisco to work as an IT consultant, before switching to comedy. He believes that being a first-generation Indian Jew in America gives him a unique perspective.

"We touch on a lot of sensitive issues-race, immigration, religion-but our goal is not to offend or shock people; it's to make them think," he said. "I try to stay away from humor based solely on stereotypes. I do material that is relevant to audiences not just in America, but other countries, as well."

Something the stars of the "Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour" will not do is use profanity or vulgarity, although they do occasionally comment on mature topics. For Koletkar, the decision to work "clean" has less to do with the fact that he is from a culturally conservative country than what risqué humor says about the comedians who use it.

"We choose not to do it," he said. "Some comedians curse and swear because it seems easier and natural. Our conscious effort is to push ourselves beyond what comes easily and instinctively."

That strategy seems to be working. In his first year as a comedian, Koletkar was a finalist in the Rooster T Feathers amateur comedy competition. The following year, he won the Halloween Comedy Contest in Pleasanton, California. He has toured with "Pundits with Punchlines" and "Make Chai Not War." He has also performed at clubs, colleges, corporations and fundraisers in New York, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Utah, California, Toronto and Mumbai. Since 2009, he has produced the weekly show "Comedy Off Broadway Oakland," in Oakland, California.

Joining Koletkar on the "Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour" are Dhaya Lakshminarayanan (an Indian Hindu) and Joe Nguyen (a Vietnamese Jew). Koletkar describes Nguyen (pronounced "hwenn") as the most laid-back of the team, who would rather tell jokes about his personal trials and tribulations than stir up politics and religion. Born to a Vietnamese immigrant and a Caucasian Jew from the Dominican Republic, Nguyen is now based in San Francisco, where he produces a weekly comedy showcase. He was also the winner of the 2009 Russian River Comedy Competition.

"I'd like to think that my act is a good balance of jokey-jokes and storytelling, which means that I am always going for what I think are clever punch lines, but I keep every joke based in truth," Nguyen said. "I'm excited about this tour because we are getting the opportunity to travel as a group and develop and promote a pretty unique brand of comedy that is both clean and clever."

Lakshminarayanan, the self-described nerd in the group, takes an intellectual approach to comedy, which is not surprising, considering the fact that she is a mathematics whiz who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Raised by Indian parents in Alabama and Georgia, she also brings a unique Southern perspective to her act. She has toured nationally as one of "Five Funny Females," and won first place in the 2007 "Battle of the Bay" competition.

"The Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour showcases that stand-up can be cerebral, informative, positive and inspiring," she said. "As the sole woman on the tour, I have the liberty to comment on gender, race, politics, science, social media and culture from my perspective, without resorting to low-brow topics that often turn off audiences."

Also appearing as special guests of the "Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour" are Los Angeles-based comedians Asim Kaleem and Abhay Nadkarni. Kaleem, a native of Karachi, is a comedian and actor who has performed at The Comedy Store and The Downtown Comedy Club in Los Angeles. His TV credits include NBC's "Trauma" and ABC's "Flash Forward." He will also be seen in the forthcoming motion picture "MoneyBall," starring Brad Pitt.

Nadkarni, a Bangalore native, brings a whole new edge to standup from an immigrant's perspective. Most of his comedy centers on a guy just trying to fit in. He has performed at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, The Ice House in Pasadena, The Improv in Hollywood and elsewhere.

Together, "the Indian, the Jew, and the Indian Jew" promise an evening of laughter and international introspection. Koletkar, who regularly sells out comedy clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area, is convinced that his group's clean, intelligent approach to humor is attracting a whole new audience.

"A lot of people shy away from regular comedy clubs because of the extent to which the line is pushed," he said. "I want to reach out to people who appreciate clean, thoughtful humor. Everywhere we perform, we are finding that there is an audience for us."

The "Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour" will appear at Forum Theatre at El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, California 91601 on Saturday, September 4 at 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Recommended for ages 18+. Tickets are $12-$20. Information and reservations are available at or by calling 415-676-1371.


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