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Russell Peters

I drove a mile up the street to interview the biggest comedian in the world. I sat down with Russell Peters at his mansion in our shared town of Studio City, California, to ask him my famous (well, after this) litany of questions in Episode 118 of The TanGent Show. As with all of mine, I did not edit, so what you’ll hear is a raw, real conversation between two comics and a peek into Russell’s daily life when he’s actually not touring the planet. Despite the fun interruptions and a bit of an ADD start, the result is a remarkably free-flowing chat that simultaneously showcases Russell’s legendary wit and features his seldom-seen serious side. Russell initially claims he wants to keep it to 30 minutes but we went for almost two hours (like both of our first times). We actually continued chatting after the outro so the official podcast is 1 hr 25 min. (I’ll release the rest, where we reviewed Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time, in the future.) Russell reveals his love for The Police and rap (ironically made by people who don’t like the police), describes the merits of being punched in the face, resents the recent attention to bullying (which happened for the second straight episode), reveals what motivates him in a year where he’s going to make $20 million, shares what frustrates him about his career, approves of both my bald head as well as the new name of this podcast, and comes full circle in how to beat the bullies (with a tangent about boxing, which involves, appropriately, being punched in the face). I do let fly with my loud laugh a number of times – but can you blame me? And despite (because of?) our different humor styles, you’ll be entertained by the continual punch-counterpunch between an established global star and a rising one. Since he helped launch my career, I’ve always said that without Russell, there’s no Rajiv. Well, without Rajiv, there’s no 1.5-hr Russell interview. Enjoy.

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Kevin Nealon

I drove out to the Westside to sit down with SNL and Weeds star Kevin Nealon at his home. He couldn’t have been more gracious with his time. Well, maybe he could’ve given me 23 hours instead of 1. But really, this was enough. The man is known throughout show biz as kind, down-to-earth, and, of course, hilarious.

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Seth Godin

I traveled to the Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, offices of Marketing Guru/Blogger/Author Seth Godin to discuss a plethora of topics… the definition of leadership, American exceptionalism, how he knows whether his speeches are successful, how to improve the US school system, how to avoid the “race to the bottom,” how overrated degrees can be, whether you should have a backup plan, the differences between freelancing and entrepreneurship, his latest success (Squidoo), why you should give away as much as possible, what he’s really good at, whether I should hire joke writers, kicking it with Malcolm Gladwell, and the best darned answer to my Jeopardy! question yet. Brought to you jointly by Funny Indian and Brand Innovators, please enjoy my interview with this genius, and more importantly, kind soul.

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Kumail Nanjiani

On his only day off in what seems like months and on the eve of the shooting of an HBO pilot with one of his idols, Mike Judge, comedian Kumail Nanjiani finally came by after more than two years of trying to schedule a podcast appearance. (We thought it was a year and actually our first correspondence was January 2011, which is nuts.) And while he’s a kind man to acknowledge just how much I myself am out of LA, it’s clear to see why this man is so hard to pin down. Because he lets his cell phone deactivate every month. Ha. No, that’s the old Kumail. He’s doing recurring or regular roles on Veep and Portlandia, co-hosting perhaps the hottest weekly comedy show in LA (Meltdown), recording a podcast w/ his wife (Emily), and writing and performing standup all over the country (The United States of America). We talk about when puns work, why it’d be better to find a snake in your house than a ghost, why Groundhog Day is such a psychologically great movie, the differences and similarities of baseball & cricket, what a real-life gunshot sounds like, how computer science and philosophy are similar both to each other and also to comedy, the moving goalposts of success, whose approval he seeks, who has it figured out, whether comedy is a meritocracy, the evolution of the definitions of nerds-geeks-dorks, the link between bureaucracy and Nazis, and his advice to the kids out there. You can check him out at kumailnanjiani.com. Or can you? That’s a joke you’ll get once you listen to this truly fun podcast with a hilarious man headed to the top, wherever that may be. Enjoy.

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Prashanth Venkataramanujam

~”You must now live in the post-world of your having said what you said.” Think about that for a sec. An example of various aphorisms dropped by my guest, Comedian Prashanth Venkataramanujam. The man with a 25-letter name knows more than his fair share of dollar words, which he peppers into our conversation – with as much skill as I drop in puns – as we cover how we met (he and my next podcast guest, Asif Ali, both opened for me in Chicago years ago), how he got started in comedy in the Second City (he and his friends started doing standup in each other’s basements), why he hates Nickelback haters (what have you done with your life?), why Eminem is the greatest rapper ever (so what if you can DJ a party off of purely jay-z tracks?), what it’s like to have a really, really close-knit group of friends back home, and what a miracle truly is. Enjoy.

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Eddie Brill

Eddie Brill, the long-time booker for The Late Show with David Letterman, had me over to his East Village apartment, where I was wowed not only by the plethora of photographs of him with everybody from Barack Obama to Paul McCartney but also by his captivating, on-going commentary on such a wide variety of topics. Aspiring and established comics alike should take note of this particular episode, as Brill shares what he looked for as he booked Letterman and still searches for as he books the Great American Comedy Festival in Johnny Carson’s hometown. Eddie provides us with food for thought as he shares his thoughts on food. We discuss whether comedy is a meritocracy – after we define that word. And this podcast episode itself closes the loop (after a near-record number of tangents). How so? Well, Eddie and I met as I took one of his renowned (and global) comedy workshops. And here I got to tell him about the comedy workshops we did this year in India as part of our US State Department-sponsored tour. Brill-iant. Enjoy.

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Adam Curry

The Podfather. No less than Steve Jobs referred to my latest guest as the pioneer of the podcast. Adam Curry hopes to be remembered for more than just what I knew him as – my favorite MTV VJ from the 1980s. And I’m sure that he will be. (And we’ll know he “made it” when there’s a plaque of him displayed somewhere in a public place.) We cover his conversation with Prince, his theories on the world and politics, the pharmaceutical industry (“Is your kid acting too kid-like?”), why online advertising will never pay out (ever-expanding supply), why he lives in Austin (one corporate word: sustainability), what he’s really good at (sifting thru large amounts of data and uncovering discrepancies), what it’s like to have a ton of money and then not, whether humans simply consume more than we produce, and his purchase of MTV.com and Curry.com. The host of the No Agenda podcast might’ve made more Indians jealous with the ownership of Curry.com than me with FunnyIndian.com. It’s a marathon convo – and it’s absolutely worth it. And now you know him from Adam. Enjoy.

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Jeremiah Watkins

I spot-traded with Jeremiah Watkins. Now, that’s a rare statement because the man doesn’t do that. OK, so that’s not exactly what happened. Dare I say we stand in mutual admiration of each other? I dare say, because it’s my podcast and therefore my description and therefore I’ll write whatever I want. Well, I can certainly speak for myself: I am a big fan of J-Dub and all he’s doing so I invited him on my show, where he brought his high-energy personality and quick wit to boot. Only a fortnight ago, I did his Improvised Standup Show, which is a quintessential experience. Jeremiah hosts at Rant LA in Hollywood and introduces about ten comics who bravely ascend to the stage and ask the energetic crowd for suggestions. They (We) then proceed to… improvise. The show is so popular amongst comics that if you get on more than a couple times a year, you’re killin’ it. On this episode, Mr. Watkins and I discuss our love of bombing onstage, our shared fear of kids in horror movies and love of the Beatles, why Tommy Boy is so boss, and our understandably mixed feelings on backhanded compliments. Enjoy.

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Dwayne Perkins

World-traveled and seasoned comic Dwayne Perkins, the whiz kid from the projects, came to my Studio City residence to speak on many things, including the benefits of stringing together international gigs, explaining the perception of the other 5 boroughs by Brooklynites, appreciating the pun-making ability of optometry places and Asian restaurants, interpreting audience reactions to jokes, being “one of us” when it comes to crowds, having nothing to lose as a rich or poor kid when going into entertainment or sports, lamenting not going into the dot-com industry, and opining about how being funny and nice as a guy is kind of like being pretty and nice as a girl. We got into exactly none of my questions as the convo simply flowed like hot chocolate. Btw, you should pick up his book, Hot Chocolate for the Mind. How do you like that segue? About as much as you like them apples? After all, the Whiz Kid (sort of a Will Hunting) spent some time in Boston. So, yeah… um, buy his book. Kind of titled like those Chicken Soup for the Soul books. So, if Dwayne released one of those in Asia, would it be for the… Seoul? Puns! So, had Dwayne launched a startup with Bill Gates, would it have been MS Projects? Puns! Enjoy.

The Nine Genres of Humor

As always, this is one man’s opinion, but as I see it, here are the styles… the types… the categories… the genres…

1. Awkward — The relatively new genre of cringe humor appears to be the hardest. Why? The challenge here is taking everyday events and making them look REAL. Shows like The Office (UK) and Curb Your Enthusiasmevince situations that appear so genuine not just because they display the mundane, trivial details of life but do it with characters that really do act that way. You could totally imagine things like that happening because they really do happen in real life. And the chances of hitting the mark are so minute. It’s like nailing the right note when you’re playing an instrument — the closer you are without being right on, the worse it sounds. Audiences are perceptive enough that they can easily sniff out phoniness. Some examples:

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Standup Comedy Devices: The Biggest Traps in Writing & Performing Standup Comedy

trapsI love pieces that break things down. Whenever I have an actor or a comedian or a psychologist or a philosopher on my podcast, I like the guest to be my Wikipedia entry for the topic that s/he knows. For example, when I had a psychologist on, I asked her to demystify the field for me. If I want to understand the lay of the land, where do I begin? What are the different types, the categories, the approaches? I feel like I can do that in standup comedy.

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How to Throw a Dope Indian Wedding

Dope_Indian_Wedding

My wife and I got married on August 1 in Austin, Texas. Over the course of the last 13 years, I’ve performed at hundreds of weddings, so I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. We did the standard Friday Night Sangeet, Saturday Day Wedding, and Saturday Night Reception. Here’s my advice on how to throw a dope Indian wedding. (A lot of it applies to non-Indian events, too.) Did I just use the word “dope”? Yes. Well, after all, my wife is a pharmacist.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb

bombI’ve read a number of articles describing what it’s like to bomb onstage but very few that tell you what to do about it.  I’m going to leave out the general advice of “Be prepared” and “Know your audience” and rather focus specifically on the moment that you know you’re bombing.

If you’ve told one joke that didn’t work, that’s not bombing.  Bombing refers to times when you feel the entire crowd hates you and it doesn’t appear ANYTHING you say is going to work.  It ranks as one of the worst feelings on the planet.  Imagine the rejection you feel when you strike out with a girl at a bar.  Now imagine that 300 people all watched that happen – not in a funny way but in a real, exposed, vulnerable, awkward way.

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Why NY Rules & LA Sucks / Why LA Rules & NY Sucks

NYvsLAI’ve wanted to write this double-column for a while.  And I feel like I’m qualified to do so.  I have lived in Los Angeles for almost six years – in Marina del Rey (on the water), in Westwood (West Side), and in Studio City (the Valley).  I have visited New York over 200 times since the age of eight and have spent well over a year there in total, mostly splitting time between Manhattan and Brooklyn (though I’ve been to all five boroughs), sometimes for months on end, replete with a mailing address.  So, I’m going to write this in the first person for both entries.  And speaking of persons, the sections describing the people of both cities must come with a massive disclaimer:  any negatives may not necessarily be indicative of those indigenous to the region; after all, these are cities of transplants.  OK, now I can go about properly pissing everybody off.

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Things People Say

ThingsPeopleSayWhat’s a laundry list?

Do people really make a litany of things they need washed and dried? It’s a funny term if you think about it. And of course I thought about it. I Googled it and learned that it came from a bygone era when people did exactly that.

Now, I feel better. It’s good to at least be conscious about the terms I’m using. It got me thinking about other phrases people often use/misuse. My favorite has to be “intensive purposes.” I hear that all the time. “I mean, for all intensive purposes, it’s the same thing.” What’s an intensive purpose? It’s “intents and purposes.”

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How to Cancel a Party

CancelPartyYears ago, I’d planned a house party but sent out the following cancellation notice. It became quite popular so here’s a repost. Enjoy.


September 2005

West End, Cincinnati?—?Rajiv Satyal, 29, received a harrowing blow to his ego as he failed to generate turnout at his much-ballyhooed Episode III party.

Due to gathering some lethargic 42 responses, Mr. Satyal has decided to pull the plug and cancel the event. He has indicated that he’ll reschedule for October/November.

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Defining Greatness

great2“I’m great.”  That’s a standard response whenever you ask someone, “How are you today?”  It’s kind of funny that we throw around the word “great” so easily.  Of course, in this context, it’s an acceptable response.  No one actually means “I’m the best in my field.”  It would be cool to assume that’s what the person meant, though.  Be like, “Really?  You’re great?  What’s so great about you?  Jeez.  All I was doing was inquiring about how life is treating you and then you get all cocky on me?”  Most likely, he’d rapidly walk away, in a great hurry.

So, we use “great” a lot.  It is a universal concept. Though maybe it does say something about the hemispheres’ value systems that the Great Soul in the East (Mahatma Gandhi) is a man who led India to freedom and The Great One (Wayne Gretzky) in the West is a hockey player.

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11 Reasons Your 30s Kick The Crap Out of Your 20s

30vs20I turned 30 nine years ago tomorrow.

When I was 17, I did what people told me.  No, wait.  That was Janet Jackson.

When I was 29, I didn’t want to leave my 20s.  I loved that decade.  But with one year left in my 30s, I can tell you that this set of ten years has been far superior to my last set.  Here’s why:

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