Krish Mohan and Liss Victory are a modern couple who have constructed “Transcontinental Variety Shows” as a coast-to-coast tour that utilizes performance as a vehicle for positive change. Mohan’s comedy touches on hot-button topics like race, religion and his place in the world as an immigrant from India. As a counterpoint, singer/songwriter Liss writes protest songs that reflect on her gentrified, middle-class upbringing in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (where both still live). The two lovers differ in race, ethnicity, religion and experience; yet, they’re very much in love. Mohan took time to chat with LEO about comedy and politics.
LEO: What comedians inspire you?
Krish Mohan: I started doing stand-up because of Russell Peters, who is the biggest international comic in the world, but almost no one in the States actually knows him. But around the time I started doing stand-up, I discovered George Carlin and Bill Hicks, and in my head I was like, ‘That’s how I want to do comedy.’ It was meaningful; they had a point and were making bigger observations.
LEO: You immigrated here from India?
KM: Yes, I came here when I was 8.
LEO: Did the immigrant experience affect your comedy in any way?
KM: Oh yeah, absolutely! A lot of my new material is about having an outsider’s perspective on a lot of things in this country.
LEO: Well, as an outsider, how does our political system look to you?
KM: Umm … not great [laughs]. It’s weird, things like immigration reform — people will start out having really healthy honest civil discourse about how we can fix the problem — but then Republicans eventually get upset; they threaten a shutdown, Democrats have to appease them, and ultimately nothing ever gets done.
LEO: And then there’s Donald Trump.
KM: Ah, yes … the ultimate fire starter of 2015. We’ve created our own monsters, and we’ve created Donald Trump. We ignored him for so long; where in the beginning he had to pay actors to cheer for him, he’s now selling out arenas. And granted, most of them don’t have a high school education, most, not all; but they’re people who are looking for someone other than themselves to blame. They may be under the poverty line, but it’s not their fault. It’s the Muslims’ fault, it’s the Mexicans’ fault, or whatever — Trump is feeding on that. And in the beginning, had we stopped him, shut him down, and said, ‘No! You don’t get to do this. You’re putting out hate speech from the get-go, you don’t get to run.’ But we ignored him. Now we have a monster more interested in dividing than uniting and calling for the same things Hitler did in 1939.
LEO: I feel like there is a scary epidemic of people being passionate and vitriolic about issues they have absolutely no understanding of.
KM: Oh, absolutely. The PC culture is a great example of that, because they get very passionate about things they don’t really know about. Like, they want to get offended for you and start yelling. If you want to be passionate about something, get educated. If you want to talk about health care, you should go see what the health care system in this country is really like, and then go to other countries and see what it’s like there, see what works and doesn’t work — and then come back with solutions, not outrage. But most of these people are just passion mixed with apathy, which will solve nothing.