Indian-American comedy group to visit India
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Last Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011, 12:04
Washington: The United States is sending a comedy group comprising of three Indian-Americans on a seven city tour of India to spread the message of religous tolerence among other things as part of its regular global cultural exchange programme, an official said on Friday.

"We are indeed sending an Indian-American comedy group. We are supporting a seven-city tour that they are making around India. They're called Make Chai, Not War, and this is part of our regular global cultural exchange programme that we do around the world," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.

Beginning January 4, the three Indian Americans, Rajiv Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu, would travel to Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Patna and Ranchi.

"The reason we decided to support this tour is because, among the things that they are known for is their talk about religious tolerance, about the importance of breaking down prejudices and about the positive experiences they had growing up as Indian-Americans in the United States," Nuland said in response to a question.

"In addition to doing shows, they'll also be holding audience discussions on these issues of religious tolerance, and doing workshops and having some interviews with the press," Nuland said adding that the seven city tour costs about USD 100,000; of which the US Embassy in New Delhi is supporting them with a grant of USD 88,000.

Satyal and Usman, who created "Make Chai Not War", say that their comedy is not based on making fun of anyone's religious beliefs.

Instead, their jokes and stories are mostly self-deprecating and introspective.

"I am a believing, practicing Muslim," Usman says in a press release.

"This, to me, means that I won't do sacrilegious, blasphemous, or heretical material.

I will however, make fun of human stupidity, narrow-mindedness, and religious fundamentalism."

Usman believes there is an important and qualitative difference between jokes that disrespect deities, teachings, ideas, beliefs, creeds, theologies, sacred symbols, or other profound aspects of religion itself, versus jokes about human frailties, idiosyncrasies, and moral failures, which are all fair game.

"There would be a lot less trouble in the world if people could learn to not take themselves so seriously, if we could learn to assume the best about each other," Satyal says. "Our show is meant to help people loosen up a bit. We have fun with all religions, including our own. We try to be good-natured, not mean-spirited," he added.


First Published: Friday, December 30, 2011, 11:59

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