Sophomore pursues comedic passion

March 10, 2020 — by Andy Chen and Anouk Yeh

Inspired by a family friend, sophomore Dhruva Nair often performs standup comedy for both friends and large events.

Sophomore Dhruva Nair gazed into a sea of 200 people, as he walked onstage to perform a self-composed comedy set two years ago. Although he was extremely nervous that he would trip or blank out on what he was supposed to say, as soon as he began speaking to the crowd, all his nerves melted away.

Nair, then only an eighth grader, was making his debut at the Hollywood Improv, a renowned Los Angeles comedy club that has hosted many famous comedians including Kevin Hart and Janelle James.

Nair, who started his career in standup comedy when he was 9, performs often at local parties and once every two months at larger venues in Los Angeles. 

His initial interest in standup stemmed from Alexander Babu, a family friend who quit his job as a software engineer at Amazon to pursue a career in standup comedy. While Babu initially struggled to attract audiences and profit from his work, he eventually achieved relative success; his YouTube channel has almost 1 million subscribers, and he recently released an Amazon Prime special titled “Alex in Wonderland.”

“When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I had no self-esteem, and I couldn’t go in front of a crowd of people and perform at all,” Nair said. “I first saw [Babu] perform at a close friend’s house, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome!’ And right after he finished, I went up and did standup for the first time — it was really cool.”

Inspired by Babu, Nair threw himself into developing comedy sets and he started to regularly perform for his friends and family. Nair’s parents were especially supportive, and they immediately enrolled him into various summer camps and coaching sessions. 

“I was eight or nine, and I literally had no interests and was doing nothing at the time,” Nair said. “My mom told me, ‘This is something that you like and you should go after,’ and I was all for it.”

After his parents signed him up for different comedy programs, Nair slowly began performing at different events and venues. From summer camps, Nair progressed to coaching sessions and small shows, then bigger shows such as gigs in Los Gatos public events and the one he traveled to Los Angeles for.

Nair said that the most memorable performance he’s given was when he was 11 at Saratoga’s Got Talent, a community talent show. There, Nair performed a set about his younger sister.

“I did it when I was like 10 years old, and I had just started comedy, so it was really fun,” Nair said. 

Another memorable performance for Nair occurred when his family and friends traveled to Los Angeles for him to perform at his first comedy show. Although Nair was initially intimidated by the idea of performing in front of such a large crowd, they laughed at his jokes, and Nair was “on a high” afterward.

Nair said that he especially enjoyed performing these sets because a lot of his friends and audience were able to relate to the topic of his set. He finds that relatability is crucial when creating his sets because he believes that one of the most important aspects of comedy is being able to connect with the audience. Most of his sets and jokes explore the Asian American experience and Asian stereotypes.

“I do a lot of jokes based on stuff Indian and Asian people do, like how our parents are very strict,” Nair said. “It's fun to relate to my [predominantly Asian] audience and have a good time at the same time.”

Sophomore Aditya Thirumalai, one of Nair’s friends who has seen him perform, says that “as an Indian teenager,” he finds Nair’s comedy both funny and relatable.

“I think his charisma definitely makes his jokes funnier and his performances better,” Thirumalai said. 

Despite not setting out to do comedy as a career, Nair said that he could see himself following Babu’s footsteps.

“I feel like pursuing a career in comedy is a real possibility if my [future] wife and I ever go through a midlife crisis,” Nair said.

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