Last year, Vir Das became the first Indian stand-up comic to get his own comedy special on Netflix. In a week, his second Netflix special Losing It will be streaming in 190 countries. He says this one will be more personal, examine the various stumbling blocks in his career and what he’s learnt from them. In this interview he speaks about the time his phone stopped ringing after Mastizaade, how stardom impacted his writing, and why his first special could have been better. Here are excerpts of an interview with Anupama Chopra:
‘I felt like I didn’t do enough’
When that first special came out, you’re happy cause you’re on Netflix and the promo has come and you’re next to the logo and all of that stuff. I think you allow yourself 5 minutes of swag. After that you start getting messages in Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and French and from all over the world. I just felt very small. While everybody around me was celebrating, I was like there’s this huge audience out there that I could have reached out to with this special. I don’t think I really realized how big their audience was so in that moment I actually felt the smallest I have ever felt as an artist. I felt like I didn’t do enough. I felt like the next thing I do needs to be better. Three weeks after me, Dave Chappelle came out and Hasan Minhaj came out and Nanette came out last year. You’re just sitting there going like there are these people who are honing their voice in an amazing way, I need to get there. So that’s really my take away from the first special.
‘I didn’t believe in what I was doing’
The special has a line in it where I say that Mastizaade came out and my phone stopped ringing. Even Vodafone wouldn’t call me! I took the beating because I was allegedly this ambassador for a certain kind of comedy. The one thing that comedian actors face is that you have two images to maintain rather than one… That’s when I took a flight to the US and thought I’ll try doing a few shows here. That’s where Netflix saw me and that’s what got me signed. It all worked out. (The special) talks about how for a fair amount of the films I was doing then, I just didn’t believe in what I was doing.
‘My writing reeked of a certain privilege’
When people first discover who you are and you get a little bit of fame, maybe it’s okay to be a douche bag for a year. I remember that phase like it was yesterday. In Jet Airways there’s that first class gate where you arrive and then some airline representative meets you at the gate. Red flag 1 was that there’s a guy carrying my bag and he was about 20 years older than I am. Immediately that starts to feel wrong to you. Then they held my boarding pass and they put me in the lounge saying ‘Mr. Das we’ll come back with your boarding pass’ and I’m like ‘I can hold my own boarding pass.’ It’s like they assumed because I had become famous, I had forgotten how to board a flight. Then we skipped the line and I’m like there’s some guy who runs an NGO for kids, there’s a guy who cures cancer – I tell dick jokes for a living. How am I skipping the line in front of these people? And the culmination of that was it affected my writing. In that phase of my life, I wrote a show and it wasn’t very good. Some of the things I wrote about reeked of a certain privilege.