Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington
04/03/2021 - 06/03/2021
Sanjay Parbhu and Sri Nair
Stranger Things, remember that popular Netflix show? Well this has nothing to do with IT. We are a comedy show containing stand up, story telling, video sketches and cultural faux pas.
2020 was wierd. 2021 will be stranger.
The second funniest Sanjay in New Zealand and the strangest Indian you will ever meet. A second-generation kiwi born and raised in Newtown, Sanjay has been lucky to have Indian influences and kiwi culture around him. Combined with a love of pop culture from other parts of the world, this has resulted in the wonderfully (and questionably baffling) unique creature that can only be described as Sanjay. Always delivering a high energy performance filled with stories, puns, props, sound effects and whatever else is on his mind, he’s not crazy, but he sure is strange and sure is funny.
And Sri Nair
An immigrant who became a resident, a resident who became a citizen and a citizen who will forever remain a Stranger Indian. Sri Nair is Kiwi Indian born in India, raised in the Middle East, and living in New Zealand with a humor based on his cultural background and experiences living in the three regions. From storytelling to observational humor, Sri Nair just wants the world to be seen through his strange eyes.
4th – 6th March 2021
Theatre , Stand-up comedy , Spoken word ,
Enthusiasm, warmth and welcoming energy
Review by Emilie Hope 05th Mar 2021
Stranger Indians is a stand-up comedy show made by two friends Sanjay Parbhu and Sri Nair. The allusion to that popular Netflix show was mostly to grab your attention but it does loosely tie into the themes of their sets. Sanjay identifies as a strange person who seems to attract other strange people and who battles with anxiety, while Sri received his New Zealand citizenship two years ago and talks about his experiences being a Kiwi-Indian.
Cavern Club is the perfect venue for these two. It feels cosy, even at Level 2 when venues are at a reduced capacity. Nair jokes that the task of selling out 50 seats is daunting, but then Level 2 came along and it’s a blessing. The crowd for opening night is responsive. We are loud and present.
The guys introduce themselves before handing over to the ‘official’ opening, an opening credits parody of The-Show-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. The ridiculousness of the parody warms the audience up and the video quality is genuinely quite good. They flip a coin to see which comedian goes first – it’s Parbhu.
Comedian Jerome Chandrahassen once told me that a comedy set should feel like you’re having a conversation with the audience. Parbhu’s set does this well. His content is relatable, especially when he talks about his anxiety with choosing something to buy, like hammers or menstrual pads for his partner. He talks directly to us, addressing us, asking us for prompts.
Even if the connections between his jokes are tenuous or non-existent at times, jumping from one topic to the next, I don’t really mind because I am engaged in this conversation. Parbhu is also quick on his feet, exclaiming “I’ve never been heckled by electronics before,” when an air conditioning machine started humming loudly. “At least I know I have a constant fan in the crowd!” (I’m a fan of bad puns.)
Parbhu talks about wanting to gain more confidence, and stand-up is probably one of the most challenging ways you can do this. At times, he loses his train of thought, or takes sips of water halfway through a sentence, and does comes across as the nerdy introvert, but my goodness, his energy! His energy and passion for the show is exquisite. This culminates in the final piece of the set where he combines his love of Rage Against the Machine and his hatred of dentists. In this section, I find it a bit hard to hear his parody lyrics and believe having the lyrics projected on the screen beside him would actually be quite helpful, especially when he asks us to sing along. Nevertheless, he puts absolutely everything into the final moments, using props in a hilariously over the top way.
Nair’s style is quite different to Parbhu’s. Nair has a cool confidence about him and is quite comfortable on stage. Nair’s content is largely about being an Indian in New Zealand and manoeuvring around racist stereotypes with comedy. For example, he owns a Prius and sometimes he sees someone waiting by the side of the road, looking from their phone to the road, he’ll pull up close to them, slow down, only to zoom off! This is his “Uber driver fun.”
He makes some good points about New Zealand’s somewhat undefined collective culture. In the international aisle in an overseas supermarket, what would represent New Zealand? At times it does feel like Nair expects laughs in certain places and receivesit surprisingly in others but overall, his set feels more connected between the thoughts, a logic following his themed topics.
Watching Stranger Indians, I feel safe and happy due to Parbhu’s and Nair’s enthusiasm, warmth and welcoming energy. The audience are comfortable to contribute, not heckle (except for that air-con unit). The comedians’ two styles complement each other nicely and the show is well-balanced.
Both Parbhu and Nair have real potential to develop themselves into polished and charismatic comedians, something that will come naturally with more experience and exposure. I’m really excited to see how they develop and what new material they come up with.
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