Monthly Archives: February 2013

Indians Enter the American Comedy Scene


All I want for Christmas is to be taken seriously as a comedian and a politician too

There is a renaissance of sorts going on in American comedy for Indian and Indian-American actors.  We have come a long way from the time when the only Indian characters found in American film and TV were deep-accented  and exaggeratedly clownish minstrels whose entire purpose was to entertain audiences by mercilessly mocking Indian culture.

Even worse, the characters were sometimes played by white actors wearing heavy brown makeup, such as Peter Sellers in the (admittedly entertaining) 1968 film The Party.  This was in form with Hollywood’s penchant in decades gone by for casting white actors into Chinese roles such as Charlie Chan or the Native American Tonto.  Those days are now over, and the characters played by today’s Indian stars such as Kal Penn, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Russell Peters, and Jay Chadrasekhar sport American accents and mainstream western behavior completely in line with their white or black castmates.  This transition says more about how America has changed than it does about the actors themselves.   Read the rest of this entry

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