Comedian

Actor, comedian and UT alumna Rasika Mathur performs a comedy talk entitled “Laughing At the Hard Stuff”. In her talk, Mathur focuses on the importance of maintaining strength and good humor in the face of difficult circumstances.

Photo Credit: Jack DuFon | Daily Texan Staff

UT alumna Rasika Mathur  works as an actor, comedian and writer. Mathur will perform Tuesday at the Union. Mathur spoke with the Texan for a Q&A.

The Daily Texan: How did you get into comedy and performing?

Rasika Mathur: I wasn’t really the class clown in high school, but I like to observe people and pick up on the weird things they did. I used to make funny speeches in my high school classes. I did these little stand-up, 10-minute comedy acts. It started as an assignment, but then people began asking me to do them just for fun.

DT: What did you do while you were at UT?

RM: I was an advertising major, and I thought that I was good. But then I got a particular professor that was brutal, and that kind of scared me. I started to think that I should do something different with my life. I focused on extracurricular stuff instead. It was actually when I performed at the Indian Student Association talent show that I thought, “Oh, maybe I can make something out of this stand-up thing.”

DT: In your comedy album “the Sari (W)rap,” you talk about growing up as an Asian-American immigrant in Houston. How has that influenced your perspective?

RM: The immigrant circle when I was growing up in Alief, Houston, was really tight-knit. Me and the other kids spent a lot of time hanging out and making fun of our parents and the community aunties, pointing out things about the way they talked or acted, and that developed into something that I focused on during my acts. I grew up with these very tense, fearful people in my house, and now I’m starting to realize where they were coming from.

DT: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

RM: You have to know your self-worth in the industry, but you also have to ask for help from people who are better than you. You need to know how to talk to people more famous or more accomplished than you, and I think that I let myself get intimidated sometimes in circles where I thought I was the weakest link, and I didn’t speak up. It was sad because those might have been big opportunities for me to learn. Sometimes after a show that I’d flopped, I’d beat myself up about it and keep thinking about my mistakes. When I’d see a more famous comedian around town, I’d freak out about it, thinking that the show that I’d bombed would be their lasting impression of me. But they don’t care about it at all! Improv is about mistakes and adapting to them, and that’s been a learning curve for me. The struggle most of the time is getting out of my own way.

DT: What’s next for you?

RM: I love the idea of selling stuff online that people would actually want to buy, like funny posters, comics and bumper stickers. I want to write a book, too. I’d love to do that in conjunction with shows, just sell stuff and make people laugh. And hey, maybe throw in a couple of cute dogs, but not the kind that wear sweaters. That would be a good life. 

 

  • Laughing at the Hard Stuff: A talk with Comedian Rasika Mathur
  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Texas Union, Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom (UNB 3.202)
  • Admission: Free
Photo Credit: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

It seems obvious that “Spy” was produced as a star vehicle for comedian Melissa McCarthy. This isn’t really an issue, as McCarthy is talented and has before proven that she is a comedic powerhouse. Reteaming with writer and director Paul Feig, whose gut-busting screenplay propels the film to extraordinary levels, the actress finally steps into a leading role that allows her to use her personality to mock the spy film genre.

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a secret agent for the CIA, but unfortunately, the only work she does for the agency is from behind a desk. Her job is to look out for her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a carbon copy of James Bond, by being his "eyes and ears" while he is out saving the world. During one mission, Fine killed by femme fatale Rayna (Rose Bryne). After Rayna reveals that she knows the identity of all active CIA spies, the agency decides to send the unassuming Cooper to find Rayna. Desperate to avenge Fine and stop Rayna’s father from getting his hands on a nuke, Cooper teams with hotheaded agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) to get ahold of the nuke and save the world.

Watch the trailer for "Spy" now:

“Spy” probably isn’t the best satire of spy films around, but it knows how to use its source material to incorporate well-written humor. Some elements of well-known spy franchises are used wonderfully. One example includes a moment when Cooper receives an assortment of high-tech gadgets for her mission – but is dismayed that they are concealed in toe-fungus spray cans and hemorrhoid cream. Other homages to the genre lack the creativity of others. The stylized opening theme reminiscent of those found in the James Bond franchise is bland and unoriginal.

McCartney is hilarious as the eccentric, but strong-willed Cooper. While some may be fooled by trailers painting the character as a dimwit who’s out of her element, it’s clear early in the film that she is as experienced as her male counterparts. She’s a goofball, but she takes her job seriously and can take on any gun-toting thug that comes near her. Bryne’s sharp-tongued Rayna is another highlight. After being presented in Feig’s previous film “Bridesmaids” as a good-intentioned sweetheart, it’s amusing to see her return as a profanity-spewing, spoiled heiress. Statham’s role as an arrogant undercover spy is underplayed, but the moments where he dons ridiculous disguises are hysterical.

Feig’s hilarious screenplay drives the film. Every laugh aims for, and mostly succeeds, in getting a laugh. Some of the jokes fall flat and end up going nowhere, but Feig knows how to channel McCarthy’s energy and comedic talent to avoid unfunny pitfalls. The humor isn’t exactly subtle, as Feig goes straight toward belly laughs. Critics of obscene or bodily humor will likely not get much laughs out of “Spy,” but as this film comes from the mind who packed tons of gross-out moments into “Bridesmaids,” they should know what they’re getting into.

“Spy” delivers a solid, humorous take on a genre that is already pretty ridiculous. Feig’s quip-filled screenplay gives the film its edge and makes good use of the actors’ comedic abilities. McCarthy is funny as the goofy, but skilled agent, and it’s her humor that ultimately makes the film work. Proving once again that the McCarthy-Feig combo delivers great results, the two deliver another memorable, hilarious hit.

Director: Paul Feig

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: 7/10 Disguished Jason Stathams

Ramin Nazer’s flourishing career as a comedian will be showcased at Sunday’s recording of “Local Live.” Photo courtesy of Local Live.

Although “Local Live"s schedule is typically made up of local musicians and bands, the KVRX special program is not just for music acts. This Sunday the show is taking a break from its weekly dosage of indie acts to allow a comedian on set for the first time in “Local Live” history.

Local comedian Ramin Nazer will end his reign as Funniest Person in Austin at this Sunday’s “Local Live,” which is the last in-studio show for this semester. Opening for Nazer are local comedians Maggie Maye, Chris Tellez and Danny Palumbo.

Nazer was not necessarily the stereotypical class-clown figure while growing up in Canada, but he said he always knew he wanted to do comedy.

“I wasn’t always the loudest or most outgoing; it really depended on my surroundings,” Nazer said. “Some classes, I never said a word. Others I got sent out in the hall every day. It’s more a way of looking at things more than anything.”

After moving to Austin 11 years ago, Nazer has become a leading name on the growing local comedy circuit. He won the title of Funniest Person in Austin in 2012 in the annual contest hosted by Cap City Comedy Club, which is something similar to winning Miss America, just at a local level and the winner is chosen based on sense of humor and not on looks. 

“Last year, there was about 200 or so people that entered,” Nazer said. “There’s a preliminary round, semifinals, then a final round judged by industry people from Comedy Central, NBC, CBS and others.”

“Local Live” is not Nazer’s first experience performing a live, produced show. Last February, shortly before being named Funniest Person in Austin, Nazer made an appearance on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” where he performed a brief stand-up set on national television. 

Nazer also recently released an album in 2012, which was recorded live in one take at a performance he gave at Cap City Comedy Club. The album will be available for purchase at Sunday’s show.

“Live performance is always more rewarding ‘cause you get to connect more directly with an audience,” Nazer said. “That’s all any living being really wants, anyways, is to be acknowledged, feel connected, be of worth.”

Ivan Brave, executive producer of “Local Live,” was put into contact with Nazer through Katherine Swope, editor-in-chief of the Texas Travesty. Swope said she showed Brave some YouTube videos of local comedians to help him schedule the three openers and was responsible for confirming the four acts for Sunday’s show.

The Travesty will be tabling at the event, where they will provide copies of the publication and sell copies of Ramin’s album “You Were Good Too.” 

According to Swope, this isn’t the first collaborative effort between the Travesty and KVRX.

“We put on [a] Travesty/KVRX show a few years ago called ‘Lights Out,’ where we had a music and comedy show,” Swope said. “The Travesty is completely interested in doing more comedy shows in the future.”

CAIRO — Egypt’s Islamist government is “strongly committed” to freedom of expression, a presidential spokesman insisted Wednesday, distancing the administration from legal proceedings against a popular comedian.

The London-based Amnesty International, however, warned in a statement of an “alarming new escalation of politically-motivated judicial harassment and arrests” in Egypt.

Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said, “The presidency did not submit any complaints” to the prosecutor’s office.

The case of the comedian, questioned this week over accusations he insulted the president and Islam on his weekly TV show, has set off a wave of criticism from as far away as Washington.

Amer said President Mohammed Morsi’s office was not involved in the investigation.

“Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is a strong commitment toward it and there will be no deviation from that,” he said.

Amer’s comments echoed a statement issued by Morsi’s office late Tuesday. It said it recognizes the “importance of freedom of expression and fully respects press freedom.”

The complaints against satirist Bassem Youssef, the statement pointed out, were filed by “citizens.” Youssef was released on bail
after questioning.

Youssef’s interrogation, as well as arrest warrants against five anti-government activists on charges of inciting unrest, have prompted Morsi’s opponents to warn of a campaign to intimidate critics.

In its statement, Amnesty said the crackdown on freedom of expression has affected 33 people in the last two weeks.

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Tuesday upheld a conviction against one of the Arab world’s most famous comedians, sentencing him to jail for offending Islam in some of his most popular films.

The case against Adel Imam and others like it have raised concerns among some Egyptians that ultraconservative Muslims who made gains in recent elections after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last year are trying to foist their religious views on the entire country. Critics say the trend threatens to curb Egypt’s vibrant film industry and freedom of speech.

Imam was sentenced to three months in jail and fined around $170 for insulting Islam in roles he played in movies such as “The Terrorist”, in which he acted the role of a wanted terrorist who found refuge with a middle class, moderate family, and the film “Terrorism and Kabab.”
The actor was also found guilty for his 2007 role in “Morgan Ahmed Morgan,” in which Imam played a corrupt businessman who tries to buy a university diploma. The film included a scene parodying bearded Muslim men wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

Author Alaa al-Aswany, whose best-seller “The Yacoubian Building” was turned into a film costarring Imam, said the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages.”

“This is an unimaginable crime of principle in developed nations,” he said in remarks posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.

The case is one of many brought by conservative lawyers in recent months seeking to punish individuals they deem as having offended Islam. Earlier this year, two courts rejected blasphemy cases against Christian media mogul, Naguib Sawiris, after he relayed a cartoon online of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie in a face veil.

The cases highlight the newfound sense of empowerment among followers of the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam in Egypt after Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising. Their newly formed Al-Nour party won 25 percent of seats in parliament, emerging as the second most powerful group in Egypt after the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

The mere filing of such blasphemy cases by Salafi lawyers has raised concern among rights groups and liberals about attempts to curb freedom of speech.

Egyptian entertainment reporter Tarek el-Shinnawi said the case against Imam is a setback for Cairo’s famed film industry, which has produced the region’s most popular films.

“It will make any writer, director or actor think before considering the role of a Muslim figure,” el-Shinnawi said.

Imam was initially found guilty in February in a case brought by an ultraconservative Islamist lawyer. He was given a retrial since he was first tried in absentia. He did not appear in court Tuesday but his lawyers did. Imam has the right to appeal.

Under Mubarak, government censors controlled what could be shown in theaters or filmed by major studios. The films Imam starred in were approved by the censors.

El-Shinnawi argued that a legally sound case would involve the writers and directors, and the censors who approved the movies, not just the star of the films.

Imam, 71, has acted in dozens of films in a career that spans nearly 50 years.

Long a beloved figured in Egypt, Imam lost popularity among Egyptian protesters for supporting Mubarak during last year’s 18-day revolt.

In one of his most popular roles, Imam played an Arab dictator in a 1998 satirical play called el-Zaeem. The play has since been aired on satellite television across the Arab world, bypassing state censors and gaining popularity through its comedic take of a tyrannical figure.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Egypt court convicts comedian for offending Islam through film

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

The line to see comedian Demetri Martin, who released his first book last week, stretched across two stories of BookPeople on Friday.


Martin, a stand-up comedian who has appeared on “The Daily Show” and his own program, “Important Things with Demetri Martin,” read excerpts from “This Is A Book” to about 250 people and answered audience questions.


Martin said he decided to write a book when he began to develop comedy ideas more suited for print, such as the 19-page story “Sheila” about a man who falls in love with a ghost. He said it was exciting to create something more permanent and tangible.


“The other things I’ve made, they float away in the air or they require technology,” he said. “They require a DVD player or a CD player or an iPod. This just requires eyes and a face — it’s God technology.”


Martin did a stand-up special in Austin in 2007, and the positive experience encouraged him to make Austin one of the stops on his tour.


“When I did my stand-up special here, the crowd was so good that I thought, if I could choose cities, Austin has to be on my list,” he said.


Martin got into comedy at the age of 24, after dropping out of New York University law school after his second year. He said initially disappointing his family freed him from their expectations.


“Once they’re bummed out I’m a comic, I can come home the next week and be like, ‘I changed my mind; I want to be a dancer now,’” he said. “And, they’d be like, ‘All right, I mean, you already failed, so it doesn’t matter now.’”


Mandy Brooks, director of children’s events and marketing at BookPeople, said Martin would draw a different crowd of people to BookPeople.


“The event is unique in that we don’t get comedians here every day, but when we do have funny people at the store, it’s always more fun than, say, an event about postpartum depression or climate change,” she said in an email.


Advertising freshman Alison Stoos said she appreciated that Martin took time to read his book instead of just signing copies of it.


“It’s always interesting hearing about his background, how he was a law student and then took a chance on something as risky as stand-up comedy,” she said. “It’s really cool how it all worked out for him.”

Comedian Bob Saget came off as calm and self-composed on the phone last week, with a slight tendency to ramble. He is the same man who regularly makes pedophile jokes on stage in front of semi-intoxicated, giggling audiences.

When most people say Bob Saget, they mean Danny Tanner. There’s more to Saget, though, than the clean, sensitive — and by self-admittance, somewhat fruity — father he played on “Full House.”

Tonight at the Paramount Theatre, Austin residents will have the opportunity to see Saget perform his notoriously racy stand-up routine. The routine is famous for Saget’s interactions with the audience. He often calls out members who are texting or on dates. These rants can be short or last the entire show, the latter of which occurred to “Shawn,” an audience member at a Denver show Nov. 5.

“You’ve got to figure out what drug your audience is on,” Saget said. “You don’t really plan these sort of things out. I just kind of say what pops into my head at the time and see what happens.”

While Saget’s on-your-feet approach may seem daunting to others, it also helps that he’s been doing comedy for a while.
Saget started filming movies when he was only 9 years old. After graduating high school, he attended Temple University for film and performed with some of his buddies in local comedy clubs there. Then he moved out to Los Angeles with the intention of going to graduate school at the University of Southern California. Instead, Saget dropped after a week to work at The Comedy Store, a comedy club in Hollywood.

“It was a cocky move — cocky mainly because I worked in The Comedy Store for free,” Saget said.

But Saget’s cockiness ended up paying off. He met the big comedians of the time, most notably Richard Pryor and Rodney Dangerfield. Saget’s relationship with Dangerfield helped launch his career with a breakout comedy special, HBO’s “That Ain’t Right.”

Dangerfield also functioned as a mentor to Saget, giving him words of encouragement during the rough stages of Saget’s career.

“The worst show I ever performed I was put in a headlock,” Saget recounted. “The guy was pretty drunk, but I managed to goose him with the mic. I just remember thinking it wasn’t all that funny. In fact, I remember looking at the audience and realizing nobody helped me. That was way back in the early days though.”

After touring for a while, Saget landed a gig as a morning co-host for “The Morning Program,” an early morning television show that competed with “The Today Show.” According to Saget, he was the “young blood” but was let go after the show suffered poor ratings. He was soon approached with offers to do “Full House” and eventually “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

Saget accepted the offers, and both shows brought mainstream success to Saget’s career. His stand-up comedy took a backseat to his wholesome prime-time television image because he felt it was not plausible to keep up. Time constraints and conflict of image were the main reasons for this choice.

Saget said he is still surprised that the general public expresses shock at the risque nature of his post-“Full House” stand-up routine.

“I guess not many people saw the HBO special,” Saget said. “I’ve been like this for awhile, but as I’ve gotten older, I have learned to turn it on and off.”

By “like this,” Saget is referring to the comedian seen in the 2008 YouTube video “Rollin’ with Saget,” who is shown hanging out in the back of a cab, smoking joints, cussing and surrounded by rappers and women. Or the Saget who guest starred on “Entourage” and “The Aristocrats” in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

Using his good guy reputation from “Full House,” he opened a show at Northeastern University by saying, “I did so much family TV, mainly when you guys were squirts. No, literally — that’s what you were. You were all semen, and don’t forget it.”

Saget writes down notes like any comedian and says most of his stuff is “silly,” but he would probably be doing this if he had a stand-up gig or not. It is just how his mind works, he said.

“I think that a lot of comedians have an agenda or some message they want to get across,” he said. “I went to one of [George] Carlin’s last shows, and it was pretty dark. But me, I just want to make people happy.”

‘Daily Show’ entertainer discusses stand-up tour, upcoming TV projects

With final exams beginning to loom over us, many students may benefit from a break and a night of laughter. Comedian John Oliver’s performance this weekend may help.

According to Oliver, the show will be him standing on stage, holding a microphone and saying things, and there might be a group of Tuvan throat singers behind him.

“To be honest, I’m leaning towards not at the moment,” Oliver said. “It’s a really long flight to Austin for them, and the air conditioning on planes gives them a sore throat, which kind of defeats the whole point.”

Whether he is accompanied by an exotic musical act or not, Oliver just hopes that the Austin audience finds his jokes funny or, at the very least, is really forgiving. However, Oliver is confident that the student population will enjoy his show, thanks to his background on the popular television show, “The Daily Show.”

“College kids are one of the largest demographics of the ‘Daily Show’ audience, so frankly, if they don’t like my stand-up, no one will,” Oliver said. “Also, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just used the word demographics in a sentence, so I’m going to have to go to a quiet room and shoot myself.”

After spending so much time working on the television shows that have made him famous, Oliver said he is happy to be back on a stand-up tour.

“I love doing stand-up,” Oliver said. “There’s a freedom to it that you just don’t get with working in television. The only drawback is that when people scream things at you on TV, you can’t hear them; when they’re in the same room as you, you can.”

In addition to his stand-up tour, Oliver is also currently working on a weekly podcast with Andy Zaltzman called “The Bugle,” as well as preparing to do a series of “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show” for Comedy Central. He is also getting ready for the holiday episode of the television show “Community” which will be filmed in stop-animation.
“I’m planning to try sleeping some time soon as well,” Oliver said. “I’ve heard a lot about this sleep thing. I think I might like it.”

Oliver’s advice for aspiring young comedians is to just get out and make people laugh.

“You just have to do it,” Oliver said. “It’s one of the only jobs that you can’t really train or prepare for. You just have to start doing it, and as time goes by, try to fail less and less. The best advice for aspiring comedians is the same as Nikes chilling mantra for humanity; just do it.”