Comedian Nimesh Patel engages audiences on his terms

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Nimesh Patel
Nimesh Patel will perform Nov. 18 at the Egyptian Room in Old National Centre. (Photo provided by Loshak PR)

If you come across Nimesh Patel’s work online, there’s a good chance you’re watching the comedian in the midst of crowd work—the practice of mixing it up with audience members on topics such as politics and relationships.

Patel is aware that TikTok clips are effective for marketing his wit, but he wants people to know he’s bringing plenty of prepared material when he performs Nov. 18 at the Egyptian Room in Old National Centre.

“I’m one of these old-school comics who likes to do jokes and material,” Patel said.

“Fast and Loose” is the name of Patel’s current tour, and the New Jersey native said the title refers to a fluid approach of structuring his jokes.

“There is some crowd work, but it’s all by design,” he said. “I’m not asking people where they’re from. The set involves talking about therapy, anger issues and their views on the world. Then I use those as jumping off points to talk about what I want to talk about.”

Patel said he’s eager to return to Indianapolis for a breakfast visit to Cafe Patachou’s downtown location as well as to perform for Midwestern fans.

“Probably my most diverse shows have been in Indianapolis or Kansas City or Omaha,” he said. “It’s always been awesome to see people from all walks of life come out to support you.”

Patel, who became the first Indian American writer on the staff of “Saturday Night Live” in 2017, said his audience primarily is made up of people who discover him through online video clips.

“It’s whoever is on TikTok and whoever the algorithm decides would like my comedy,” he said.

Although Patel discusses his ethnicity onstage, people have asked why he doesn’t place more of an emphasis on the topic.

“I want to make sure I’m established as a joke writer and a comedian before I’m known as the ‘Indian joke writer’ or the ‘Indian comedian,’ ” he said. “Granted, I’m always that. Everything I’ve ever done, regardless of what I’ve said, is Indian by default. But it was definitely a conscious choice.”

Patel has fond memories of a 2017 performance in Indianapolis, where he appeared as a supporting act for Chris Rock at the Murat Theatre in Old National Centre.

It was the first time Patel unfurled a memorable Mike Pence joke in Indiana. Patel acknowledges the R-rated yarn is “not fit to print” and the reference to the former governor and vice president arrived out of nowhere.

“It’s a bit of a slow build,” Patel said. “I knew it was a bit of a risk. Being comfortable with that silence was a learning experience for me. Then when it hit, I knew, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s a strong joke and they know exactly what I’m talking about.’ It was cool to get a 30-second applause break opening for Chris.”

And the joke has evolved over time, Patel said.

“It’s something I will never stop doing until Mike Pence responds,” he said.

Regarding current events, Patel said he’s open to accepting a job that hasn’t been filled since Trevor Noah exited the role last December.

“I will gladly host ‘The Daily Show,’ ” Patel said. “I will do it for a lot less than Sarah Silverman and Trevor and Hasan (Minhaj) and anyone else who got consideration.”

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