The Times of India Group presents The 5th Annual Desi Comedy Fest - The biggest South Asian Comedy Festival in the US. 9 SF Bay Area Cities, 11 Shows, 32 Comedians

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[Desi (pronounced “THEY-see”) is a term for the cultures and products of the Indian subcontinent or South Asia and their diaspora, derived from the Ancient Sanskrit (deśá or deshi), meaning Land or Country. Desi countries include India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Maldives.]

Bay Area-based Indian-born comedians, Samson Koletkar and Abhay Nadkarni, and The Times of India Group Present The 5th Annual Desi Comedy Fest, an 11-day South Asian stand up comedy extravaganza touring comedy clubs and theaters in 9 Northern California cities: San Francisco, Berkeley, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Milpitas, Dublin, and Mountain View. The festival, the largest of its kind in the US, runs August 9-19 this year and features over 30 South Asian comedians from all over the US, with diverse ethnic (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Iranian, Syrian-Mexican, Libyan, Japanese, and Filipino) and religious backgrounds (Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and Catholic). Last year’s festival boasted an attendance of 2700: up from 700 in 2014, the first year of the festival. 4000 attendees are expected this year.

What’s new this year? This year, Koletkar and Nadkarni are partnering with The Times of India Group, India's largest media conglomerate, that just completed The Gaana Music Festival, the largest ever Indian music festival in America. This year's Desi Comedy Fest will be a grander spectacle than ever before. It will feature the best comedians from the previous four years and 10 brand new and hilarious comedians. One third of this year’s comedians are women. The festival comes to 3 new cities this year: San Mateo, Milpitas, and Dublin. Since last year’s festival, Desi Comedy Fest has held shows in Portland, Seattle, San Diego, and Los Angeles. In 2016 it toured 20 shows in 20 days across four cities in India. This June, the festival is bringing 6 comedians to New Jersey for one night for its East Coast debut.

Abhay Nadkarni, festival co-producer, observes, “2018 has not been such a good year for the Indian reputations: Aziz Ansari was in the news for the wrong reasons, Ajit Pai revoked Net Neutrality, there's a group called Hindus for Trump, and Trump pardoned Dinesh D'Souza thinking he is Hindu. We just want to show America that Indians still contribute in a positive way #NotAllIndians.”

Festival co-producer Samson Koletkar notes, “In this post-Trump America, Republicans
and Democrats seem more divided than Indians and Pakistanis. So we are bringing together Indian and Pakistanis to show we can all laugh together at our differences. It's going to be like the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner, but with 50 shades of brown.”

The idea for the festival was born on August 14 and 15, 2013, Pakistani and Indian Independence Days, respectively, when Koletkar produced a few comedy shows that featured Pakistani and Indian comedians. The positive response to the shows planted the seed for something larger: The Desi Comedy Fest. Koletkar and fellow Indian comedian, Abhay Nadkarni, talked about the cultural zeitgeist in the South Asian community: usually introverted South Asians are taking to the stage to openly talk about their cultural characteristics while also addressing immigration, race, and other personal experiences of the South Asian diaspora. That discussion spawned the idea for the festival, which they launched the following year in 2014. Koletkar adds, “Where else can you find Indians and Pakistanis sitting together and laughing?”

Comics to watch for this year include:
•Adam Mamawala, New York. (One of the Good Ones comedy album #1 on iTunes comedy charts in December.)

•Ahmed Bharoocha, Los Angeles. (Irish-Catholic-Pakistani-Muslim; half hour special on Comedy Central.)

•Azhar Usman, Chicago. (America's Funniest Muslim, CNN.)

•Alingon Mitra, New York. (Has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.)

•Kiran Deol, Los Angeles. (Emmy nominated actress and comedian, has appeared on
Modern Family.)

•Usama Siddiquee, New York. (Bangladeshi-American, winner of Laughing Devil
Comedy Festival)

Comedians traveling from abroad this year include:
None. Thanks to travel bans and more stringent travel policies.

Co-Producers’ Bios:
Samson Koletkar (aka Mahatma Moses) was born in Mumbai and raised Jewish. Growing up in the world's most crowded city, he spent most of his childhood years burning the midnight candles for earning a Masters Degree in Computer Software, thereby fulfilling his parents’ dreams. He then moved halfway across the world, to the technology headquarters and a hotbed for emerging comics: San Francisco. In August 2017, BookMyShow listed him in “10 Best Indian-Origin Comedians of the Last Decade.” He runs Comedy Oakland, winner of “2016 Best Place for Comedy” in the East Bay Express Readers Poll and in 2017 did 254 shows featuring 400 different comedians and 13,000+ attendees.        

Abhay Nadkarni is a comedian/writer/producer who moved from South-India to South Central Los Angeles for grad school. Dodging bullets en-route to grad school armed him with plenty of stories, and stand up comedy was his only catharsis for combating culture shock. His act is an eclectic mix of his experience as an immigrant in the US. He has appeared on CBS, Audible's "America from Abroad," been featured in The Huffington Post, SF Chronicle, and has been part of comedy festivals including SF Sketchfest and the World Series of Comedy. He is also the co-creator of "The Setup," a weekly comedy show featured as one of the best underground comedy shows in SF.

Festival Schedule:
*Thurs, August 9 @ 8pm: Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave, San Francisco
*Fri, August 10 @ 8pm: Aragon Theater, 900 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
*Sat, August 11 @ 8pm: Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Pkwy
*Sun, August 12 @ 7pm: Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St, Berkeley
*Mon, August 13 @ 8pm: The Gateway Theater, 215 Jackson St, San Francisco
*Tues, August 14 @ 8pm: Throckmorton Theater, 142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley
*Wed, August 15 @ 8pm: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.
*Thurs, August 16 @ 8pm: Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St, Santa Cruz
*Fri, August 17 @ 8pm: India Community Center, 525 Los Coches Street Milpitas
*Sat, August 18 @ 8pm: Dublin Performing Arts Center, 8151 Village Parkway, Dublin
*Sun, August 19 @ 7pm: Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St, San Francisco

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