Are you up for the Biggest South Asian Comedy Festival in America?

Are you up for the Biggest South Asian Comedy Festival in America?
Desi Mucic Fest

The 26/11 attack on Mumbai in 2008 brought to surface a lot of emotions from friends and acquaintances that made Samson Koletkar very uneasy. Sitting half way across the world, feeling helpless and saddened by all the hatred spewed online and in person, he did not know what to do. He had performed at Pakistani events in San Francisco Bay Area. He had performed for Muslim organizations across USA. His only respite seemed to be, to bring together Indians & Pakistanis in a room and make them laugh together. 5 years later, in August of 2013 he brought together 2 Pakistani and 3 Indian comedians for "United We Stand Up" - 2 comedy shows on August 14 and 15 - the Independence days of Pakistan & India respectively. Both shows were half full, but Samson was hopeful that this could become something.

Between August 2013 & 2014 he met with a fellow Indian comedian & friend, Abhay Nadkarni. Abhay had recently moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and as soon as Samson pitched the idea of a "Desi" comedy fest to him, he was onboard. Together they picked 4 venues in 4 cities across the San Francisco Bay Area, got every Desi comedian in the Bay Area on the roster, and launched the opening night of the Desi Comedy Fest at San Francisco's premier comedy venue - Cobb's Comedy Club. The show sold out. That was followed by 3 more sold out shows over the next 3 nights, and Desi Comedy Fest had arrived. 700 attendees thoroughly enjoyed the 11 comedians on the fest.

Next year both Abhay & Samson wondered if 2014 was just a fluke or were they really onto something. So, they doubled down, booked 8 shows across 5 cities and presented 22 comedians from the west coast cities of San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles & Seattle. Their attendance swelled to 1,200 and Desi Comedy Fest was truly on its way.

While Desi Fest was growing, both Abhay & Samson has built up their weekly comedy clubs where they continued to hone their performing and well as production skills. Abhay & fellow Indian comedian Richard Sarvate started "The Setup" in February 2015 in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. An underground basement venue creating the most intimate atmosphere, the kinds where stand-up thrives. They featured comedians from all over the Bay Area and beyond, as out-of-town comics made it a regular stop during their San Francisco tours. The show has been voted one of the best comedy venues in America by Thrillist and Interrobang. The Setup now regularly hosts 4 shows every week, 1 on Thursdays - Fridays & 2 on Saturdays, and also has a monthly edition at the Hollywood Improv Labs.

In May 2009 Samson launched Comedy Oakland. While most comedians living outside San Francisco were looking to run shows in the city, Samson went against the grain, living in San Francisco and running a show in Oakland. The show grew over the years, voted 2012 Top 5 Things to Do in Oakland" and earning "Best Place for Comedy" wins in East Bay Express Reader's Polls in 2016 & 2018. The club also ranks #1 on Google & Yelp. With 5 shows every week, 1 on Thursdays & 2 on Fridays-Saturdays, Samson brings together the best up-and-coming comedians alongside industry pros from around the country. SF Chronicle has called his show a "Comedy Utopia", and the show has been featured on ABC, NBC, & SF Examiner.

Buoyed by the success of the first 2 years, Abhay & Samson decided to go big. Samson quit his tech job in December 2015 to focus on the growth of the fest and in August 2016 the 3rd edition of Desi Comedy Fest boasted an attendance of 2,100, and showcased 54 comedians from 5 countries on 11 consecutive nights across 9 cities. The fest got covered by NBC, CBS, TOI, NPR, and host of other media outlets. The fest was reaching every possible corner of Northern California with concentration of South Asian population. The reason for expanding to so many cities, explains Samson, "Indians are lazy, they don't like to travel", he says, "It's a historic fact. It's the real reason India never invaded any other country".

The reason for the success of the fest, says Abhay, "Desi Comedy Fest is one place where you not only see Pakistanis and Indian laughing together but also North & South Indians. "The comedians roster is diverse, with Indians & Pakistanis & Bangladeshis & Afghanis & Sri Lankans represented on the stages. In 2016 the fest expanded to include comedians from Middle Eastern (Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, etc) & East Asian (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc) cultures, making it one of the most diverse entertainment event in America.

Over the next 2 years the fest held satellite shows in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, New Jersey, and also completed a 4-city-20-show tour of India. The India tour included a week of shows at Canvas Laugh Club, and other comedy venues in Bangalore, Pune & Delhi. The growth continued in 2017 with 2700 attendees enjoying the fest, which by now had become a mainstay in the Bay Area calendar for the month of August.

In its 5th year now, the Desi Comedy Fest runs August 9th to 19th, kicking off the fest at Cobb's Comedy Club yet again, and traveling through San Mateo, Santa Clara, Berkeley, Mountain View, Milpitas, Dublin, Santa Cruz & Mill Valley, before returning to the historic Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco Union Square for the grand finale. The fest this year features 32 comedians from around USA, with credits like Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing, Emmy nominations, appearances on Late Night shows with Stephen Colbert, Conan & Craig Ferguson, and media coverage from NBC, KQED, SF Chronicle, Mercury News, India West & weekly. Show details and tickets can be purchased on www.DesiComedyFest.com.

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