Asha Patel is sort of an alternate ego, a blunt, loud, and funny “Indian” character dressed in a sari, played by Youtube comedian and musician, Vinita Khilnani. She lit up the room of the Allendale Branch Library in South Pasadena on Saturday, Nov. 12 for over 100 spectators with her clever improv and energetic skits.
Khilnani is an American-born Indian comedian who is known for her role as “Asha Patel,” who she describes as “an identity crisis with myself,” her way of fabricating a stereotypical and funny Indian woman.
“I started doing comedy when I was very young, I grew up with a lot of comedy around me and I used to love watching “I Love Lucy.” Laughter is the best medicine and I feel like the world just needs more “laugh,” I think it’s important to have everyone just lighten up because it makes me mad when people are stressed.” said Khilnani.
Khilnani completed her undergrad in Biology at UCSD minoring in cognitive science and finished her thesis at Caltech. She then completed a Masters in Science for biology at Calstate LA and also a Masters in Public Health at USC. If you ask her if she’s going to become a doctor at this point, she’ll shun your stereotypical question and tell you straight up “1-800-NO! And you can quote me on that! I’ll be doing comedy forever!” joked Khilnani.
“I did my degrees for fun to be honest, the first time around my mom was pressuring me to get a job but I wanted to pursue the entertainment world and refused to get a job.” Khilnani said. “I googled the nearest schools like Cal State LA and USC so I just signed up for the masters, it was like a year and a semester, I just knocked that out and I got time to go to the studio to record and do my comedy.”
“Initially I was like a pop singer and for like 7 years, I pursued pop music and then transitioned to improv with The Groundlings, been there for 3 years and I’m still there now, I’ve also taken classes at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and also Second City,”
Khilnani opened the show appearing as “Asha Patel,” dressed in a traditional orange sari with a loop of the Indiana Jones theme song playing in the background.
“So…the reason I chose the Indiana Jones theme song is because it has the word “India” in it,” remarked Khilnani.
She connects with the audience, cunningly improvising conversation with anyone during the show, while being sarcastically mean to audience members. She applies a style of humor coming from being oblivious to how rude she may sound, but at the same time being very funny and sarcastic about it all.
“You know my shows are very expensive, but I’m doing this one for free. I’m very famous around the world so hold your autographs for later since they’re only 20 dollars each. Go ahead and take photos with me so that you may blast them on the internet and make even more famous” joked Patel.
Her first segment of the show started with a story she tells through one of her Youtube videos “The night I was arrested,” a funny video explaining of her being accused on being bike thief suspects by police because she looked like a criminal after her and her friends were just hiking in Santa Monica.
“I wanted to show an actual story that happened to me and give a glimpse of what “brown” people go through, like racial profiling, it’s a real thing whether it’s Vinita or Asha Patel that it happened to. I decided to make it a comedic thing and people liked it,” Khilnani said.
“I really don’t know a lot about Indian Culture, but I kind of get hints of it from my parents. So I created this character “Asha Patel” to be in her point of view to try and live life through her so I can be Indian completely. She has some characteristics like my mom, she seems really upset at the world but she’s really funny.” said Khilnani
The next bit of her show was an explanation of the stereotypical questions she gets just because she’s Indian such as “So how much is your Dowry?” “So are you feather or dot?” “Do you have an arranged marriage?” “Do you speak Hindu?” “Does your head bob?” She also made a joke how when she meets people and they would initially say “Oh, hi Asha, Very nice to meet you. So where can I get good Indian food around here?” to which Khilnani retorted sarcastically “Last time I checked I was not Yelp. I don’t know. I eat in-n-out, pizza. Go online.” she says. She even called up an audience member to put on a sari, the traditional formal attire in Indian culture, she purposely emphasizes on it’s length and immense amount of time to be equipped. Khilnani purposely put it on too tight so her guest couldn’t even move in it.
Her next bit revolves around the stereotypical Indian wedding that seems to last weeks and that everyone looks “colorful”. Khilnani explained that the typical “Bollywood” dancing can be simply simulated by imagining yourself “turning faucets off and screwing on lightbulbs while bobbing your head.”
She closes the show awkward yet vibrantly dancing to the famous song “I’m too sexy,” by Right Said Fred, making up sarcastic, dorky, provocative moves.
“I wanted to spice up the performance and show everyone that Asha feels like she can be sexy, straight up Asha moves, no Indian-like dancing was involved,” she said hysterically
Khilnani’s online Youtube series features her own “comedic spin” on things such as making parody videos of mainstream songs such as “Panda” by Desiigner. She cleverly dissects parts of the song’s lyrics as Asha Patel. “Pockets swole, Danny selling bar, candy,” is mentioned in “Panda “ as she pretends to be oblivious to the reality of the song being related to narcotics and she remarks “Well, I have a friend named danny too. My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter cups,” as she smirked, confidently trying to relate to the popular song. She also does this to several other popular songs on her Youtube channel.
She discussed stereotyping caucasian culture and how “being brown” plays a factor in her stories, she enjoys making fun out the the lack of origin in American culture, dull and unoriginal, opposed to American society taking shots at Indian types of weddings and parties for being “strange and too long”.
“In South Pasadena, I was the only Indian in my whole school, but was surrounded by all types of cultures that I could learn from. Since I was the only Indian, I felt like I couldn’t even connect with anyone ‘cause I was the only Indian person there, which is probably why I’m so non-Indian at this point in my life.” “Now that I’m older, I’m kinda getting more aware if the population, I think I have like one Indian friend.” she joked
“She mostly focuses on the Indian community but also interacts with different cultures like Americans. Basically her living life every day.” she added.
She recently posted a video prior to the recent election of Donald Trump featuring two sides of her character Patel. Arguing with herself, she goes back and forth over funny and petty reasons how her idea of an Indian woman would like or dislike Donald Trump.
“I try to make videos that are relevant to current events and I know that everyone is kind of heated right now with the whole election and I wanted to show sides of this whole Trump thing, so I made two characters through Asha Patel, one who likes Trump and one who dislikes him for certain reasons and I just thought it would be kind of funny to lighten up everybody’s mood, even though I did lose some subscribers,” she joked
“I just wanted to put a whole comedic spin on the whole thing, I know it’s a tough time for everybody but I think it’s important to stay positive, stay together, and see what the future brings,” Khilnani said.
After the show, she played a very silly and spontaneous video in the background as she took selfies with the audience. A looping ten-hour video of goats screeching that was reminiscent to her quirkiness.
Khilnani will be performing during the Tree Light Ceremony at the Allendale Branch Library again on Dec. 10 at 4PM.