Why comedian Kunal Kamra won't apologise for talking politics: 'If you have a mic, you have responsibility'

The Indian stand-up, who recently performed in Dubai, vows to keep 'being myself' despite any backlash

Kunal Kamra performed his first show in eight months with a third visit to Dubai. All three shows of his were sold out events at The Theatre, Mall of Emirates. Courtesy Front Row Events
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Kunal Kamra and controversy go hand in hand.

And, as the stand-up comedian faces legal action over a tweet he posted earlier this month, he held centre stage in Dubai for his first live show in eight months.

The popular Indian comic performed at The Theatre, Mall of Emirates, on Friday, November 20, his third show at the venue in recent years.

However, the gig was first scheduled to take place in March, before the pandemic took hold, organisers confirmed to The National.

The visit, Kamra jokes backstage, will pay the rent on his house for a year.

"We have been starving for an opportunity," he says on returning to the stage. "The content is there, the difficulty is not to perform. It is my bread and butter, but these are difficult times."

The comic, who could soon face contempt charges for criticising India's Supreme Court after the country's Attorney General agreed to initiate proceedings, says it is labourers, not performers, who are most impacted by the pandemic in his home nation.

"Our pain is nothing compared to theirs. Morality-wise, I would say if you have $100 ... feed the poor rather than buy tickets to my show. It is not mutually exclusive so more people should do both."

With stage shows hard to come by, Kamra has instead focused on podcasts and interviewing political celebrities, but he doesn't believe these will replace his first love – stand-up comedy.

Indian politics often forms the backbone of his routines, though he says this is not confined to court rooms and the halls of government.

"I think everything is politics, two people talking to each other is politics," he says. "This generation is politics. You telling me not to address you as sir is also politics. If you have a mic, you have the responsibility to talk about things people wouldn't hear otherwise."

The comedian, 32, is certainly not one to shy away from the spotlight. As he told the audience during his Dubai show, Kamra is enjoying a wave of popularity and confirmed he will not bow down to any external pressure nor apologise for his comments on current affairs.

Kunal Kamra performed his first show in eight months with a third visit to Dubai. All three shows of his were sold out events at The Theatre, Mall of Emirates. Courtesy Front Row Events

But where does Kamra draw the line between comedy and politics?

"I speak my mind. I am not afraid to do that. The band Radiohead once said music should not be restricted to a genre, because genre limits the musician," he says.

"I would call myself an observing comedian. I choose to observe politics right now, some days it will be human life ... some days, something else."

But will he pay heed if public feedback turns against his current content? "People [in the audience] were less, then they became more and they may become less. What made them go from less to more is me being me. So I will continue to be myself."

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