The funny Indian who hopes to have PM Modi in splits tonight

By: | Published: September 27, 2015 12:23 AM

Given his oratory skills, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have enough witty one-liners to wow his audience at the SAP Center in California today.

Narendra modi in usA first-generation Indian-American, Satyal will host the cultural programme that immediately precedes PM Modi’s one-hour speech. (PTI)

Given his oratory skills, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have enough witty one-liners to wow his audience at the SAP Center in California today. But before Modi steps on to the stage, the audience will already have had a healthy dose of ‘American-Indian’ humour from comedian Rajiv Satyal, co-host of the event.

A first-generation Indian-American, Satyal will host the cultural programme that immediately precedes Modi’s one-hour speech. He told FE in an interview that his act will be a balance of levity and formality. “Any jokes told will be associated with the PM. Luckily, I’ve worked clean my whole career. Still, there’s comedy club-clean and there’s opening-for-the-PM clean,” he says.

Confident of having Modi and the audience in splits, Satyal, who has coined the catchy “From the Indus Valley to the Silicon Valley” slogan for the event, says,  “Catchy, pithy stuff like that will play well. It’s imperative to recall the attention span of people these days. Now multiply that by 18,000 (the audience strength of the evening). Laughs come in waves, so short one-liners work better than long tales.”

Balancing Indian genes and an American life, what does he feel about the two countries? “What happens in India affects us here in the USA and vice-versa. If nothing else, the two most important democracies eye each other with curiosity and hope. When I travel to India, I feel more and more that I blend in there. But still, there are major cultural differences.” For a comedian, that works well. “Keeping those ‘alien eyes’ enables you to give a different perspective to the audience.”

The former P&G marketer has performed worldwide as a comedian. In August 2014, Satyal released a video, I Am Indian, which went viral and was also played at Dubai and Shanghai before Modi took to the stage during his visits there.

As for tonight’s show, he says he’s ecstatic to be opening for Modi, and feels as if he has been prepping for this moment for years. However, he says his lucky charm is his Gujarati wife, who he just married. “It’s already paying off,” he quips.

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