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16.03.2017

When we caught up with Improv Comedy Bangalore last week, they were deep in figuring out funding to get to their biggest gig ever - they’re the only Indians invited to participate in the legendary Chicago Improv Festival - and also working on a punchline about founder Nasir Engineer’s beard, in honour of their Muslim-banning host nation. 

Nasir’s comedy bros Madhu Shukla, Rohit Nair and Abhishek Desai are going to have to fill in for him, it turns out: Nasir’s been denied a visa to the US in what they say is an obvious show of racial profiling. Maybe he just forgot to attach his tax returns in triplicate? “I’m going to miss out on a great opportunity to learn because of my name,” he tells us. “I feel kind of thwarted.” 

Nasir’s been denied a visa to the US in what they say is an obvious show of racial profiling. Maybe he just forgot to attach his tax returns in triplicate?

Chicago’s improv festival, the holy grail for many artists in the genre, starts on March 27th and features some of ICB’s own heroes. The tagline of its 20th edition, ‘No Ban On Fun,’ hasn’t been ironic enough for many performers, though: Rohit tells us that several teams from across the world have declined participation in a show of solidarity against the Trump government’s travel ban and bigoted rhetoric. 

When we caught ICB last weekend, they had their audience collapsing with laughter over a joke about another illegal immigrant, Superman. Nasir doesn’t think he’s going to talk about his visa situation at their next show this weekend. “What we do on stage is very spontaneous and depends on the suggestions of the audience.” Having said that, “if a chance comes up, I am willing to use this. I have no problems talking about it, but I will not pull it into an act to make a point. I’m not that political, just enraged.”

Meanwhile, he’s set his sights on a more welcoming nation, and is getting ready to apply to Finland’s world-class improv festival in June. Good luck with the Lap(pi) of luxury!

Getting there: As a run up to their Chicago fund-raising campaign, Rohit and Nasir perform a two-man act called Bread Prov. March 18, Cuckoo Hostel, 6th Block, Koramangala at 8 PM. See Facebook for details. Improv Comedy Bangalore’s Facebook page is here

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