A Year in The Life/The Life in a Year: 111 Shows, 28 Countries, 110 Flights, 183,433 Miles
A Panoply of Peripatetic Peregrinations — Conquering the World through Clean Comedy, Country by Country, Continent by Continent
When you’re an entertainer, you never know when the phone is going to stop ringing, and if perhaps you’ve peaked. It’s not the same as going to a job and picking up your steady paycheck every two weeks. That’s why I sort of panic every January, because that’s my slowest month of the year. Nothing’s going on as far as corporate shows, colleges are just barely getting started up and private parties aren’t happening, because everyone has blown all their money for the holidays. Then, as the year progresses, things start to get crazy.
The Private Jet Life
In late 2016, I discovered the joys of flying private jets. Since then, I’ve taken over 50 private flights all over the US and Canada. It’s been an absolute blast!
New Tesla Model 3
On March 30, 2016, I stood in line to put down a deposit on the forthcoming Tesla Model 3. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the fanboys who camped out the night before; I got in line at about 9 AM, and I plunked down my $2,000 deposit around noon for two Model 3's. I placed the order for the first car in November 2017, and on January 22nd, 2018, I was the very first customer to get the Model 3 in the New York City area. This was my second Tesla — the first was my 2014 Model S (see below), and I absolutely love it! This new model is available for as low as $35,000, and it’s worth every penny.
How Comedy Got Me into Bitcoin, and How it Changed My Life
In 2013, I became aware of the bitcoin phenomenon, and of course, as with many things, I wish I had learned about it much earlier. In May of that year, I heard that the Bitcoin Foundation was holding a conference in San Jose, California, and I wrote them and asked them if they might be interested in having me MC and do comedy. They wrote back, very enthusiastic about my idea. We negotiated a rate, and they asked me if I wanted to be paid in cash or in bitcoin. Being the gambler and risk taker that I am, I of course chose the bitcoin. At that time, bitcoin was worth $130, and the organizers of the conference helped me set up a Coinbase account and sent my payment for the event there. This would eventually turn out to be the highest-paid show I’ve ever done, by far.
I flew to San Jose for the event, and it was packed, with about 800 people. During my act, I asked how many people were Democrat, and there was dead silence. I asked how many were Republican, and again, silence. This was truly puzzling; having no one cheer for being Republican or Democrat had never happened to me before. I then asked whether everyone present was independent, which I thought was unlikely, and again, silence. Somebody in the front row suggested I ask how many people were libertarian, and I did, and the audience erupted in cheers. This absolutely blew my mind, and of course it reaffirmed the old saying that one should know one’s audience. It made sense, though, that bitcoin enthusiasts would be libertarian, because it is after all a cryptocurrency that isn’t regulated by any government.
I also had the distinct pleasure of introducing Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twins who as you recall started Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg. They were both extremely nice. It was really great to get to meet them and hear what they had to say about the future of bitcoin.
When I got home from San Jose, I researched bitcoin and learned as much as I could, and I decided that it was a great investment. So I bought more at $159, using Coinbase (and fortunately, not Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange that went bankrupt and “lost” $11 billion worth of its investors’ bitcoins). About a year and a half later, bitcoin reached $1,200, and I thought about selling but decided against it. It went as low as $800, and has since recovered and as of this writing is worth about $9,000. I’m happy to say that I still have all the bitcoin, what I was paid at the conference and what I bought on my own. Some people are saying that it will get to $1 million. I sure hope so!
In the beginning, it was possible to mine bitcoins on a regular laptop. There was the case of a poor soul in Wales who threw out $130 million worth of bitcoin on an old hard drive. He had mined the bitcoin on his laptop, and the only reason he didn’t mine more is because his girlfriend was upset about the noise the computer made at night. He went to the landfill to try to find the hard drive, but was confronted with a few football fields’ worth of waist-deep trash, so he gave up. I understand that because of the recent surge in the price of bitcoin, he’s gone back to the town and offered to give them 10% ($13 million) if they will let him dig it up.
Here’s the ultimate bitcoin story. I have a dear friend who has a government job and videotapes Indian weddings on the side, charging as much as $5,000 for his services. In 2010, he was approached by some folks who were putting on a bitcoin conference at a hotel in the Washington DC area. He told them that he was able to provide them with video and other equipment for the event for only $4,000, which was way better than the $20,000 they had been quoted by the hotel. They hired him, and they told him that they could either pay him $4,000 in cash, or $6,000 in bitcoin. Unfortunately, he took the cash. If he had taken the bitcoin, it would now be worth $1.6 billion!
Opening for Carrie Underwood at a corporate event in Las Vegas
How was I going to top a year in which I did 113 shows all over the world? I was in the Cayman Islands on New Year’s Eve, and I had two good seats to the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl (the second Super Bowl I’ve attended) courtesy of Pepsi/Frito-Lay, for whom I did four shows around the country. We saw the Seahawks destroy the Broncos.
One of the highlights of the year was speaking at Southwest Airlines headquarters on diversity (and being paid in 20 round-trip tickets!)
Commercials, Commercials, Commercials
I auditioned for a commercial for VMware, and I was overjoyed to be selected for the role. The joy turned to ecstasy when, after the first shoot, we were told that we were going to be shooting more commercials in the series. In all, I shot five commercials for the company. We shot on location at a bar in Long Island City, but our costume fittings and rehearsals were held at Silvercup Studios in Brooklyn, where they film the TV show “Girls”.
Brooklyn seems to be quite a hotbed for production these days. After all, I filmed my Apple commercial at Broadway Stages, which is in Brooklyn as well. There’s something really awesome about being able to take the subway to tape a major commercial or a voiceover, or to take a ferry to do a show. This is part of what makes living in New York City so great.
In conjunction with the VMware commercials, I was flown to San Francisco to reprise my character “Raj” from the commercials at VMWorld at Moscone Center. I flew first class, and I was paid for both flight days. Everywhere I went, I was recognized by attendees who had seen the commercials. I was on stage with Pat Gelsinger, who used to be a senior vice president when I was at Intel. He is now the CEO of VMware. The night before the event, I “warmed up” with some jokes at a barbecue/bonfire for a bunch of folks from companies like Google, YouTube, Facebook and Apple at Muir Beach.
I performed at three doctors’ conventions: at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio, at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Lake Tahoe and at the Bellagio Las Vegas. Before the Las Vegas event, we checked out the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.
I also performed in the Berkshires for an NBA team owner’s birthday, at an event with actor Tom Jane at a political fundraiser in Beverly Hills, at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with actor Edward James Olmos and designer Peter Nygard at a life extension summit in Silicon Valley and at a wedding in Cancun, where we swam with dolphins.
The wedding could be described as sheer insanity, to say the least. After the wedding reception, everybody jumped into the pool, and everyone was dancing around and splashing to music for hours.
I was booked on this wedding by an eBay executive whom I met years ago at a venture capitalist event in Silicon Valley. He helped me out greatly; my eBay account was suspended because eBay thought I was selling fake Super Bowl tickets in 2009 (they were genuine tickets, and my account was restored thanks to his help). Ultimately, he booked me to perform at a team-building retreat held at the Asilomar resort in Santa Cruz, California. The retreat also featured the CEO of Patagonia.
So when the time came around for his brother to get married in Cancun, he booked me to MC and do comedy at the wedding.
In September, I was the MC and comedian at a gala in Silicon Valley, and the keynote speaker was the president of the San Francisco 49ers. The day after the event, I attended a 49ers-Eagles game as a guest of the team and was allowed to go behind the scenes.
I performed at a large IT conference in Silicon Valley, and I saw my friend Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, who was also speaking. Woz signed my new iPhone 6 Plus. I first met Woz when I performed at a conference in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I took him to dinner at Outback Steakhouse the next time I was in the Bay Area. Like John Madden, he prefers restaurants with laminated menus.
I also spoke at a chess tournament at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, a charity gala in Seattle and at a corporate event at Sony Music headquarters in New York. On the flight to Seattle, I caught this view of Mt. Hood out of the window.
Next, I was the comedian and MC at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut at an event with Roger Daltrey, the singer from The Who. Roger was extremely nice. I was totally starstruck and couldn’t believe I was actually hanging out with one of rock ‘n roll’s legendary singers.
It’s interesting sometimes how shows can come about. I was written up in an article in the New York Times, and a very nice gentleman read the article and called me out of the blue, and we instantly hit it off. He’s a retired pit boss and dealer in Las Vegas. I had lunch with him the next time I was in Las Vegas, and he referred me to a venue in Sedona, Arizona. I was booked, and I did three shows over a weekend. Also, the venue put us up at the L’Auberge resort, where the rooms normally go for $800 a night.
In Newport Beach, I shared the stage at a charity gala with former Saturday Night Live star (and unbelievably talented musician) Joe Piscopo. Joe gave me his email, and we have stayed in touch. He also gave me the most wonderful testimonial.
Late in the year, I was booked on my fourth comedy tour of India. I did one club show and five corporate shows, including a show for 1000 employees of Intel in Bangalore, and two shows in New Delhi and Mumbai for a major Dutch-based company. I was utterly blown away by the intro video that they put together for me.
I also performed at a corporate event in Mumbai for one of the largest conglomerates in India, and in attendance were former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Grand Slam tennis players Vijay Amritraj and Steffi Graf. After the event, I had dinner with Steffi, Vijay and the company’s CEO and his wife.
I closed out the year with a performance at a grand New Year’s gala in Houston.
Since I had had such a productive year, I decided to treat myself to a brand spanking new Tesla Model S, which I bought solely with proceeds from my CD/DVD sales over the years.
DC Congressional Event
The year got off to a rousing start with a congressional event at the China Garden restaurant in DC. I picked up two California congressmen at one of the House office buildings in the Tesla, and drove them to the event. The China Garden holds a special memory for me, as it was there where I performed at my first congressional event many years ago.
The Magnificent Maldives
My year’s international shows started with a bang, an Indian wedding in the Maldives. (I perform comedy and MC at South Asian weddings all over the world — in addition to many weddings in the US and Canada, I’ve performed at weddings in Cancun, Aruba, Trinidad, Istanbul, Greece and Honolulu, just to name a few.) I love doing weddings, as well as anniversary parties, graduations, birthday parties, etc. — it’s so terrific to be part of such happy occasions — and you can’t beat the food! :-)
The Maldives is a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, approximately 250 miles from India. Islands are my favorite places in the world to visit. Perhaps it’s because I live on an island myself — 2 miles wide by 13 miles long — the island of Manhattan, New York.
We flew from New York to Abu Dhabi on Etihad, and onwards to the Maldives. Upon landing at Malé International Airport, we were picked up not by car but by boat, and we were ferried to the yacht. The 120 foot yacht was breathtaking, and our room was luxurious. The wedding was beautiful, and we did a number of dives — we saw all kinds of marine life, including sharks, manta rays and a whale shark.
The best part of this job is flying to exotic locations, and there are many places one can transit through on the way. So I always try to build in stopovers in countries I’ve never been to. On the way back from the Maldives, we swung through Sri Lanka, landing in Colombo and then heading to Kandy, in the middle of the country. On the way, I fist bumped an elephant along the river, and we checked out the Temple of the Tooth, which was breathtaking.
One of the attractions of going to Asia is seeing giant statues of Buddha. I’ve seen giant Buddhas atop a mountain in Lantau, Hong Kong, on Phuket, Thailand and in other locations around the globe. This time we went to a giant Buddha in Sri Lanka. There, we ran into a really cool guy named Aaron Tong, who is on a two-year trip around the world. He gave up a promising job in high-tech and decided to travel instead. I think he made a wise decision. Most people work 40 to 45 years and put off significant travel until they are retired. As Tim Ferriss wrote in “ The Four Hour Workweek”, the key is to have mini-retirements sprinkled throughout your life, and to travel while you are still young. Hallelujah!
Pakistan — Some of My Best Audiences Ever
A few years ago, I spoke at a convention in Orlando for 6000 Pakistanis. The organizers were impressed, and lo and behold, they asked me if I might be interested in doing a comedy tour of Pakistan. I have to admit I was a bit afraid, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I know that other artists have been invited to Pakistan but declined because of fear, and that’s really unfortunate. I had heard that Bryan Adams did a show in Pakistan years ago, and they loved him. I figured if Pakistan was good enough for Bryan Adams, it was good enough for me. :-)
So I boarded a flight nonstop to Moscow, first class, on Delta. I had to change airports in Moscow but didn’t have time to go to the Kremlin (next time). The city was quite picturesque though, even in February. Best of all, I was able to use the Wordlens feature of Google Translate to translate all of the Russian signs to English, even in the subway. Then it was a layover in Dubai, then on to Karachi.
By the way, you might be thinking, for a non-famous comedian, this guy sure flies first class a lot. One of the keys to flying in the front is to stick with one airline/alliance. Most people make the mistake of flying 10 different airlines, always seeking the lowest price, and thusly they never achieve status on any airline. By flying one airline/alliance as much as possible, one can earn elite status, which leads to double miles, free first class upgrades and many other perks.
For example, on Delta Airlines, I am Diamond Medallion — which is status granted to those who fly the airline more than 125,000 miles a year. The perks are many. I’m upgraded to first class on every flight, even though I’m flying on the cheapest possible coach ticket. I can change my flight times and even airports at the last minute. I also get a free membership to the Delta Sky Clubs worldwide, and I’m allowed to bring in guests with me as well. The clubs are far preferable to the scrum at the gate, and there’s fast, free Wi-Fi, food, drink, a very relaxed atmosphere, and most importantly, numerous power outlets.
You don’t necessarily need to fly 125,000 miles a year to gain status. Some airlines start upgrading you to first class for free once you fly 25,000 miles in a year. One thing you can do is to get an airline credit card. In addition to signup bonuses, you will get thousands of miles when you reach certain spending thresholds in a given year. It’s really unfortunate — I have many friends who fly a lot, yet they are always in the back of the plane. They don’t have to be.
Also, it’s an excellent idea to develop relationships with employees at the airlines. I have contacts at Singapore, Qatar, Emirates, Delta, American, Southwest, Brussels Airlines and also Amtrak. Some of them have become my best friends, and the benefit of making friends with these folks can be priceless.
People always ask me how I can stand the extensive travel I have to undertake.Thanks to elite status and first class, flights, I actually look forward to travel.
In any case, I had no idea what to expect in Pakistan, but the look and feel seemed very similar to India. Honestly, no one at the airport or on the streets even gave me a second look— my producers told me that it was probably because I look like I could be from the north of Pakistan, near the Chinese border.
The treatment and hospitality in Pakistan were out of this world. A couple of the employees at the hotel told me that they loved my comedy and insisted on photos with me.
I did six shows in Pakistan: two in Karachi, two in Lahore, one in Islamabad and one in Multan. These were some of the best audiences I have ever had in the whole world, and I knew the laughs were legitimate, because nobody was drinking LOL. In Karachi, the shows took place at a theater that held 1400 people. I decided to do something that I normally never do, which is to have a Q&A after my show. This resulted in some hilarious moments. After both Karachi shows, I had to stay over an hour after each show to sign autographs, take pictures and meet everyone.
The show in Islamabad took place in a stunning resort, high up in the Margallas, which are the foothills to the Himalayas. There were some high-ranking members of the military, senators, etc. in attendance, and they were an extremely enthusiastic audience.
Beirut, Lebanon and Manama, Bahrain
After Pakistan, I had a chance to check out Beirut, Lebanon. Beirut is an awe-inspiring place —certainly parts of it have been destroyed, but it’s being built up, and it’s very beautiful. It’s almost like a European city. There, I ran into a playwright who, by coincidence, is from New York and knows Dean Obeidallah, an Arab comedian and CNN correspondent with whom I have worked many times.
Then I flew to Bahrain, where I’ve always wanted to visit. You may recall that Michael Jackson had a house there. I was picked up by two loyal Facebook fans, who took me to some local Bahraini cuisine, namely the Dairy Queen in downtown Manama. Facebook is truly impressive. You can post that you’re going to be in a country, and then fans will contact you and offer you a ride from the airport, a place to stay and even a (free) meal!
It’s funny, the Middle East has some interesting happenings going on at American fast food restaurants. They can actually be rented out for parties. I remember being in Casablanca, Morocco and going to McDonald’s on a Friday night, and they had a band playing and whole families having a nice evening out. At the DQ in Bahrain, they actually had a wedding celebration going on!
I flew on Qatar Airways to Doha, then back to the States, in the luxurious first class cabin.
I returned to the States for about 60 shows before my next international travel— the usual corporate functions, charity galas, private parties and so forth. I bought an Apple Watch, and was overjoyed when it measured my heartbeat at 35 — my lowest before that had been 39. I got a bit tired of the watch, though, and gave it to a friend.
In April, I performed at a wedding at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. That night, the Freddie Gray riots broke out not far from the hotel. In May, I was MC, comedian, auctioneer and fundraiser at a charity gala at the Taj Pierre Hotel in New York City. The keynote speaker was Nirupama Rao, who was until recently India’s ambassador to the United States. Her Excellency had hired me a couple of years previous for an event at the Kennedy Center in Washington, so it was tremendous to work with her again.
Two days later, I performed in an 1800 seat theater in San Francisco. I also fulfilled a dream by taking the special owners’ tour of the Tesla factory in Fremont!
In June, I got to perform at an event with former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber and former NBA players Tim and Penny Hardaway.
My “Family Guy” Voiceover
In June, the most unexpected opportunity came from out of the blue. I was sitting there, minding my own business, when I got a call from the casting director for the hit Fox animated TV show “Family Guy”. I almost dropped the phone when I realized whom I was talking to. As I always do, I asked her how she had heard about me, and she said that somebody in the office had recently heard me interviewed on a podcast, and they were looking specifically for Indian comedians. I was floored.
I was given the option of recording the voiceover either in Los Angeles or New York. As much as I would’ve really enjoyed going out to Los Angeles and meeting everyone, I felt it was easier to just walk down the street and tape it in a studio in New York, with an ISDN hookup. Looking back, I kind of wish I had flown out to LA.
I recorded the voiceover, and it didn’t take very long. (They don’t call me “One Take Dan” for nothing LOL.) When I filled out the paperwork, I was pleasantly shocked at the paycheck — this was the easiest money I had ever made. And there are residuals coming to boot!
Voiceover is one of the highest paying professions if not the highest paying. A dear friend of mine heard that I was interested in voiceover and introduced me to his uncle, who many years ago recorded a six-word voiceover that took less than five minutes in the studio. It ran for 17 years, and he made $11 million for that five minutes. Fantastic work, if you can get it!
The months passed, the new year came and still I heard nothing about a possible air date. Then, finally, in May, Sheetal Sheth, one of my co-actors on the episode, emailed me to let me know that it was going to air! And so, on Sunday, 22 May 2016, the season finale, “The Road to India” was broadcast. It totally blew me away to hear my voice on network TV and to see my name in the credits. (Unfortunately, I never saw my Apple commercial on TV, even though all my friends were telling me they were seeing it everywhere). In addition to Sheetal, the other big-name actors on the episode included Russell Peters and Anil Kapoor.
In July I emceed a wedding in Toronto, at a castle on the outskirts of the city. I hung out with some dear friends in Toronto as well, and I did a guest set at Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in Toronto. The Pan-American Games were going on in Toronto at the same time. The highlight of my trip was going to Starbucks and being asked if I was an athlete from the Games by the young lady behind the counter!
Once again, the call came in to do an Indian wedding, this time in Mykonos, Greece. I had heard about this legendary party island and eagerly accepted the offer.
We flew on Delta, on their extremely luxurious 777–200LR, which has flat bed pods in first class. It was on this flight that I figured out how to use Jott to text back and forth on the flight, even over the ocean. I wrote about using Jott and other in-flight technology in this article on The Points Guy.
Istanbul was magnificent as always. I had performed at a Pakistani wedding in Istanbul in July 2011, so I knew the lay of the land. We flew to Athens, and then to Santorini. On Santorini, we did the all-day hike from Fira to Oia, which was sensational. Then we took a ferry to Naxos, which turned out to be my favorite island of the trip. We stayed in the Labyrinth, the old, walkable part of the city with no cars whatsoever. It was so beautiful, and I could see possibly retiring there one day.
One thing that was very difficult to understand was the massive line waiting for the ferry from Santorini to Naxos. People stood in line for up to 90 minutes, sweltering in the hot sun. We sat and relaxed at a café and enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the shade. When the gates opened, people were literally running like rats to board the ferry. We waited for everyone to board, which took forever. We then boarded the ferry at the very end of the line, waiting perhaps five minutes total. On board, there were literally hundreds of empty seats. I had to laugh at the utter lemming-like behavior. I’ve seen this happen all over the world — people standing in line, sometimes for hours, for a train or a ship on which everyone has a reserved seat. Go figure!
The wedding took place at the Rocabella Hotel in Mykonos. The Rocabella is without doubt one of the most magnificent hotels I’ve stayed in, anywhere in the world. We were upgraded to an ocean-view suite, which came with its own private Jacuzzi.
Back in the States, I did more corporate shows, conventions and private events. In New Orleans, I performed at a convention for Asian American police officers. My first joke was “500 Asian police officers, 1000 disappointed parents!”
In August, I performed at an event at the Caesar’s Palace Hotel/Casino in Windsor, Ontario, right across the river from Detroit. Windsor is very special, because that’s where we lived when I was less than a year old, in a humble home practically underneath the Ambassador Bridge. After the event, we all went to gamble, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing — the CEO was playing craps with over $500,000 on the table! A father and son were rolling at the table, and the kid had a great run that made the CEO a lot of money, so he gave the kid something like $1000 in chips.
After Windsor, my next show was at a beauty pageant in Houston, where I was the MC. When I landed, I texted a friend whom I had met on a Delta flight a couple of years previous. It turned out that he was only on that flight two years ago because his private jet was being repaired (no kidding). After that flight, he took me to dinner, and we became friends.
This time, he invited me to Motley Crue at the Toyota Center, where he and his friends had a sky suite. Afterwards, we all went out on the town with a party bus that he had rented. Once again, I cannot stress how important it is to talk to people on planes! You never know whom you could meet.
800 Tesla Geeks in Belgium
Being a proud owner of a Tesla Model S, I’m constantly reading up about the company, and I’m a member of a number of user groups. It was in one user group newsletter that I heard about a Tesla confab coming up in Antwerp, Belgium. I immediately emailed the organizers, and instantaneously received a very enthusiastic email back with a phone number to call. I called right away, and the organizer of the event said that they really, really wanted me to come and do my comedy, and that they would pick me up (in a Tesla, of course) in Brussels. Within five minutes, everything was arranged.
My first class airfare, worth over $11,000 round-trip, was courtesy of Brussels Airlines, which was formerly known as SABENA airlines (which in the old days was was known to stand for Such A Bad Experience Never Again). When I got on the plane, I couldn’t believe my seat — it actually looked like a throne, with tons of legroom, space to work, and a lie-flat bed. One of the most important things for me when traveling internationally is to fly first class, and to be able to sleep. This helps attenuate the problem of jet lag (although it certainly doesn’t solve it.)
I landed at Brussels and, as promised, was whisked to Antwerp in a Model S. I stayed at the luxurious Hilton Antwerp for three nights. The next morning, a crane was brought in to lift a couple of Teslas up to the fifth floor, then the cars were driven into the hotel ballroom on a ramp. It was a sight to behold!
The conference itself was wonderful, and there were approximately 800 Tesla owners from all over Europe. I had a decent set and made a lot of new friends with whom I still keep in touch. I have to say, Tesla owners are very special. The ones I have met have all been extremely nice, environmentally conscious and tech savvy. One has almost an instant kinship with fellow Tesla owners; we feel like brothers and sisters. The flight back to New York was just as divine as the flight over — once again, first class on Brussels Airlines.
My next show was in Sacramento for a charity gala. This charity has schools scattered all over India, and it’s a very worthy cause. As I frequently do at charity events, I decided to donate 100 percent of my CD/DVD sales (not just the proceeds, but the entire amount) to the charity.
Return to the San Francisco Punchline
The next night, I stayed with some dear friends in Noe Valley, San Francisco. I was booked to do a set at the San Francisco Punchline comedy club on their Sunday night showcase.
The Punchline holds a special place in my heart. I got my start in comedy by taking a stand-up comedy class. I took this class because I was tremendously nervous about speaking on stage in my job as a demo engineer with Intel Corporation. Over eight consecutive weeks, I drove up to San Francisco every Sunday from Silicon Valley to take the class. I had no idea what I was doing (and sometimes, I feel like I still don’t). In the first class, everyone laughed at every joke. In the second class, nobody laughed at anything. I was so bummed out, and I seriously considered quitting the class. But I had quit so many things in my life that I decided I had to stick with this (plus I had already paid for the class LOL). I shudder to think how my life would be different right now if I had quit.
I was very fortunate to do well on that first show at the Punchline, and it was the tape of that show that led to my second performance for 250 Intel employees at a convention in Las Vegas, which led to my performance for 2500 Intel employees at an international sales meeting in San Francisco. It was at that event that some people came up to me and told me that they knew I’d been hired as a professional comedian to pretend I was an Intel employee, instead of the other way around. That’s when I first got the inkling that perhaps I could do comedy for a living.
In any case, I had a killer set at the Punchline, and I prepared to fly the next day to Oman.
Having done six shows in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and one in Doha, Qatar, I’d always wanted to explore the bordering country of Oman but never had the time. In September, I was invited to the Sultanate of Oman to perform. I honestly did not know what to expect, but Oman was an extremely pleasant surprise.
On Monday, I left from San Francisco airport on a flight to Salt Lake City. I sat next to the nicest guy, who turned out to be an executive from Facebook. By the end of the two-hour flight, we were as good as old friends. The friendships and connections one can make on flights are priceless. That’s why I try to push myself to talk to anyone and everyone that I can on flights, even though I’m an introvert. Check out my article about breaking the ice on planes from “The Points Guy”, for whom I’m a contributing writer. We exchanged contact information, and he hooked me up with some people who are helping me with my Facebook presence.
My next flight from Salt Lake City to Amsterdam, on Delta, was like a dream, and the flight attendants were wonderful. I was able to converse almost entirely in Dutch and French and tried my best not to use English. The first class lounge at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was divine as usual, and I naturally pigged out on everything they had at the buffet. My next flight segment, also in first class, was on KLM from Amsterdam to Dubai. The flight attendant on that flight was so kind and helpful that I actually wrote her a recommendation which I emailed to KLM. She was an older lady, and she made me feel as if I were her only customer. I shopped for a couple of hours in the massive shopping mall that is Dubai airport, and spent some time in the first class lounge before boarding the next flight to Muscat, Oman.
From the moment I arrived in Oman until the moment I left, I was treated with incredible hospitality. I was picked up at the airport by two very nice gentlemen. Along the way, we stopped at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. They checked me into the hotel, and I was stunned by the view from my room; it was so peaceful and serene. I had a couple of hours to kill before the show, so I took a swim in the Gulf of Oman, and it was the most wonderfully warm and calm water.
The venue was a large meeting center located on top of a hill overlooking the city. It was very close to the Corniche, which is a very nice section of Muscat with shops and restaurants. After a few introductory speeches and a local comedian, I did one hour of my clean comedy, and the reaction was one of the best I’ve ever had. I got a standing ovation. I then signed autographs took pictures and met people for 45 minutes afterwards.
After the show, we had a sumptuous dinner at the hotel, and I ate way too much baklava!
At the airport, there was a separate check-in area for first class that was calm, quiet and unhurried. The lounge was ornate and luxurious, and almost immediately, a very nice young lady came up to me and asked me if I wanted to have a free massage. I was thinking, “Does anyone actually say no to this question?” The massage was extremely relaxing, invigorating and professional. I’ve seen some amazing airport lounges in my time, but one with a spa? This was absolutely amazing, and I didn’t want to leave.
I started to check my email in the lounge, and who walked in but a dear old friend from Intel. We only had a few minutes together, as I had to get to my flight to Hyderabad, to begin my fifth comedy tour of India.
My flight to Hyderabad was very relaxing, and I was one of only three people in first class.
My show in Hyderabad was for Novotel, a worldwide hotel chain. The executive who booked me had seen me perform at a show in New Delhi in December of the previous year. The setup of the room was exquisite, and once again, I had a great set and hung out with the crowd and took pictures afterwards. The next morning, I boarded a flight to New Delhi for my second show for Novotel. This hotel wasn’t officially open, but we got to stay there anyway.
This was one of my most surreal travel experiences I’ve ever had. The hotel wasn’t set to open for another two weeks, but the full staff of 500+ was on site for training and simulations. It was almost surreal —here we were in an 800 room hotel, and only two rooms were occupied — my manager and I were the only two guests!!
As is usual when I check into a hotel overseas, I went to sleep immediately. I couldn’t believe my ears when I was awakened by loud hammering and construction noises. I thought this was very, very strange — 800 rooms, and they gave me a room near construction? I requested another room, and I asked if I could have a suite. I was told that none of the suites was ready yet, which I found hard to believe, but the bottom line was they gave me a quiet room.
As was true for the show in Hyderabad, the show was for a few hundred of the hotel chain’s most elite and loyal customers. Once again, I had a fantastic show, and the evening was made very special by the fact that my old boss at Intel showed up along with his wife and son. His son was a cute kid, and I brought him on stage at the end of my show to draw tickets for a raffle that the company was doing.
The final show on this tour was for Microsoft Corporation, and once again, these folks had seen me perform at the event in New Delhi in December. One of the Microsoft employees warmed up the crowd, and he was hilarious. I had a good show, and hung out with some very cool Microsoft folks.
There was no time to recover, as I was off early the next morning to Singapore. Singapore is one of my favorite places in the world, and has many of the criteria for a place I would like to live one day, and maybe retire. There’s no crime, no drugs, no gangs, no graffiti, no trash anywhere, no spots of gum all over the sidewalks. And it satisfies my number one criterion, which is hot, humid weather year round. There’s also easy access to numerous destinations in Asia with budget airlines. A few years previous, I had done four shows in Singapore, and the reaction was fantastic. This time, I performed at a club run by a comedian who opened for me on my Singapore shows a few years ago. I was flabbergasted by how much he had improved. He had an extraordinary command of the audience. Two days later, I was interviewed on a major television show that is seen by 20 million people in Asia. The two hosts were very down to earth and easy to work with, and I got an inquiry for a corporate event which came about as a result of appearing on the TV show.
I was lying in my hotel room, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I saw an email with a last-minute inquiry about a private party in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I called the client right away to confirm, received the deposit by credit card and realized that the only way I could possibly make the show was to fly out within hours. I looked at the flight logistics, and sure enough, I was able to find a ticket from Singapore to Philadelphia on Qatar Airways, through Doha, Qatar. I then flew five hours to Doha, had a one hour layover and then flew 14 hours to Philadelphia. I landed in Philadelphia in the morning, checked into a hotel and slept the whole day. The event was lovely; a 70th birthday party for a doctor, thrown by his daughter. The family was really, really nice, and I was glad I had made the trip.
Two days later, I had to turn right around and fly back out to Europe to perform at a crowdsourcing conference in Belgium. I flew through Reykjavík, Iceland, to Amsterdam and then took a Thalys high-speed train to Brussels. I had just been in Belgium a few weeks previous for the Tesla event. It was an utter coincidence that I was peforming in Belgium twice in four weeks. I love being there, because I can speak English, and passable French and Flemish, and I can switch back and forth among them. Languages are kind of a hobby of mine, and I like to concentrate on getting the accent exactly right. The downside of this is that people assume I know more of the language than I do. I’ve often been asked by Dutch people if I was born and brought up in the Netherlands.
I stayed in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, across the Zenne River from downtown. You may recall that Molenbeek was in the news, because the terrorists behind the Paris and Belgium attacks were based in the district. I was in Brussels three weeks before the attacks, and at that time, Molenbeek seemed fine to me.
For the crowdsourcing symposium, I served as co-emcee and told jokes between speakers. It was a blast, and I met some very interesting people from all over the world. I met a number of “digital nomads” that week in Belgium. As I travel the world, I meet more and more of these nomads. These are people whose jobs allow them to live anywhere, as long as they have a robust Internet connection. For example, I met a programmer from Sweden who travels the world and couch surfs. His only requirement is that he be connected to his company for about four hours a day. One of the employees from the crowdsourcing company is from New York, and she’s also able to do her work from anywhere in the world. Through a combination of AirBnB, couch surfing and pet sitting, she’s able to keep her expenses down and travel the world. I often think about doing this myself. Most of my shows take place in the States, but I do a ton of international shows as well. I could fund my travels by renting out my New York apartment. Who knows? Something to think about.
Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden
After Belgium, my next flight was to Copenhagen, Denmark. The reason I decided to go through Denmark was that I found an amazing deal for a mileage ticket in first class from Copenhagen to New York through Düsseldorf, Germany on Air Berlin. I searched for places to perform in Copenhagen, sent out a few emails and heard back from Thomas Warberg, who runs a comedy club in downtown Copenhagen. I got to the club, and honestly didn’t know what to expect, as the comedians perform in Danish. Thomas assured me that I would be fine, but I have to admit I was a bit worried.
Thomas did approximately one hour, and it was all new material. I couldn’t believe the laughs he was getting. Of course, it’s relatively easy for a comedian to do old, tried-and-true jokes and get guaranteed laughs. It’s another thing entirely to do a whole hour of all new material, memorize it, and have the crowd laughing uproariously at almost every joke. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He brought me up midway through, with a very warm and generous introduction, and I got a very enthusiastic reception from the crowd. I was quite pleasantly surprised.
Afterwards, I took Thomas out for drinks, and I was amazed by his story. Thomas did comedy almost immediately after getting out of school, and has never had to have a “real” job. He is definitely one very fortunate and talented individual, and I was eternally grateful for the spot. My performance led to an inquiry about a corporate event later this year in Europe.
During the day, I took the train to Malmö, Sweden, which is right across the river. While I was there, I walked around and saw the “Twisting Torso”, a very uniquely architecturally stimulating building.
The next morning, I took the train to the airport but fell asleep on the train and missed my stop…and had to go back to Malmö again, then back to the airport. Fortunately, I had left for the airport with plenty of time, so it was not an issue. I took a short hop from Copenhagen to Düsseldorf, and then I was in first class from Düsseldorf to New York, and once again, I had a flat bed. I ordered my meal from the flight attendant, and immediately after takeoff, put my seat down to flat bed mode, went to sleep and didn’t wake up until we were on final approach! I missed the meal entirely.
I had less than a month in the States before more travel insanity was to come.
In Los Angeles, I performed at a crowdsourcing event at the Century Plaza Hotel. The crowd was a mix of business people and those looking for funding for various projects, such as movies, technology and so forth.
One of my hobbies is playing music — I play six instruments — keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, drums, cello and violin –and have toured in bands playing keyboard and guitar. In June, I auditioned for an original rock band based in New York City, this time playing bass, and I was overjoyed when I made it! We are currently practicing and preparing to play out.
In June, I was having lunch in Bethesda Maryland, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw an electric BMW i8 parked behind me. I chatted with the owner of this futuristic dream car, and we exchanged contact information. In November, he booked me to perform at a Diwali event in Potomac, Maryland. It’s safe to say that a Tesla functions as a fantastic mobile business card!
In New York, I performed at the gala premiere of the Star Wars Costume Exhibition. Being a total computer nerd, I’m a lifelong Star Wars fan. It was an incredible honor to meet Anthony Daniels, who plays C-3PO. Mr. Daniels is the only actor to have appeared in all six of the Star Wars movies.
Super Speed in Shanghai
Then in the fall, a confluence of many bookings took me round the world yet again. I got booked at a corporate event in Australia, more shows in Singapore, a charity event in Sri Lanka, a convention in Malaysia and another event in Pakistan. I flew first class to Shanghai, on Delta, with a flat bed, which was as usual astoundingly comfortable with all kinds of delectable food. I had a long layover in Shanghai, and I had to ride the magnetically levitated train, which goes 260 miles an hour. When I was a kid, I built a working model of a Maglev train in my industrial arts class and got a perfect score. The Shanghai Maglev was everything I had imagined.
After Shanghai, I had a one-day layover in Manila, Philippines. I’ve always wanted to visit the Philippines and finally had my chance. Alas, I happened to be there on the same day that President Obama was visiting, so I couldn’t go out and see the sights because the roads were closed. However, together with a new friend from the hotel, I was able to check out the Resorts World casino very close to the airport.
Stranded in Brunei
From Manila, I took a flight to the Sultanate of Brunei. Brunei was a place I had heard a lot about and had wanted to visit. It’s a separate country on Borneo, the island shared with Malaysia and Indonesia. I pretty much find something nice to say about every country I visit, but regrettably, that’s not true of Brunei. First of all, my flight arrived in Bandar Seri Begawanat at 2 AM, which is a common arrival time there. The only problem was, there were no taxis available whatsoever at 2 AM, there was no one to call and there is no Uber in Brunei. There were many other people in the same situation as I.
I borrowed a kind person’s cell phone and tried calling the hotel, the Jubilee Plaza. The front desk person answered, and when I explained my situation, she hung up, and although I tried calling back repeatedly, she never answered the phone.
Since I’m always wanting to get more steps on my FitBit, I considered walking, but it was way too far. I finally found a security guard who was willing to take me to my hotel for the equivalent of US $15. I got the feeling that this is something he does every night.
There’s no alcohol allowed in Brunei, which is fine with me since I don’t drink, but it also means that there’s nothing going on at night. I walked around a bit during the day, and there was nothing memorable or remarkable. It was also Friday at around lunchtime, which meant nothing was open, since Brunei is a Muslim country. Honestly, unlike almost any place I visit, I simply can’t recommend Brunei.
Return to Australia
Then it was onwards to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for my flight to Melbourne, one of my favorite cities in the world. I had done a bunch of shows over two weeks in Australia a couple of years ago. The bummer this time was only being able to be in Australia for two days. The venue was stunning, and the attendees were the crème de la crème of Melbourne, dressed in their finest. Ahmed Fahour, the head of the Australian postal service, was the keynote speaker, and he was truly an inspirational man. In the States, nobody would be even remotely interested in seeing the guy who runs the post office, but in Australia, it’s a different story. He’s a celebrity who earns over $4 million a year, and he’s credited with making Australia Post run so much more efficiently — I think he has even been able to get the postal service there to turn a profit, which would be unheard of in the US.
I was the MC and comedian for the evening, it was a phenomenal event, and as is always true for the crowds in Australia, they were a magnificent audience.
Then it was on to Singapore. The organizers and sponsors of my shows there put me up at the Mandarin Orchard, one of the finest hotels in the city. It’s right smack in the middle of the Orchard Road area, which is full of shops and entertainment. Christmas decorations lined the streets, and they were so resplendent. The best part is that since nobody in Singapore commits crimes, there’s need to worry about the possibility of vandalism, so the displays were very elaborate.
The first Singapore show took place in a theater that was on the 18th floor of an office building, and the second show was at Comedy Masala, a packed show with 300 people that happens every Tuesday with comedians from all over the region and the world.
The day after my Singapore shows were done, a number of us flew to Colombo, Sri Lanka, where I had been in February, for a charity show benefiting Kids Off the Street. What’s very interesting about Colombo airport is that they sell appliances there. You know, because whenever I’m in a rush to board a flight, I’m thinking “Boy, I could really use a new freezer right now.”
The day of the event, we went to visit Kids Off the Street, and the kids were so cute. The ballroom of the Ramada Colombo was packed with over 500 people, and the crowd was awesome. I was surprised to find that I had been designated the headliner — I was under the impression that I was going to be earlier in the lineup. It might’ve been because I was the only comedian that does all clean comedy.
Convention in Kuala Lumpur
I didn’t have time to hang around, much as I wanted to stay in Sri Lanka. I beat a hasty retreat to Malaysia, where I was booked to perform at a huge gathering. The Istana Hotel was in downtown Kuala Lumpur, not far from the Petronas Towers, which, at 1,483 feet, are two of the tallest buildings in the world. The keynote speaker was Shashi Tharoor, former Undersecretary of the United Nations. Shashi is a loyal fan whom I have seen at many events. He gave me a big hug and the most extraordinary testimonial on video. In his speech, Shashi talked about the Indian state of Kerala, where my father is from, in formidable detail, and there were many things he told us that I had had no idea about. Some speakers can be boring indeed, but he was riveting. I did two performances over two days, and I met a number of people from all over the world.
Kuala Lumpur is an amazing place. It’s like Singapore in many ways, but nowhere near as expensive. My friend lives in a 3,700 square foot, four bedroom, four bath condo, and the rent is US $1800 a month!
The dollar is way up against the Malaysian ringgit, so when you go out to eat at a nice restaurant, you get the check and you almost start laughing, because the prices are so low.
The shopping malls are spectacular as well, and they are connected by elevated walkways, so there’s no need to worry about traffic or the heat and humidity. I couldn’t believe the Christmas decorations, and don’t forget, Malaysia is a Muslim country.
From Malaysia, I flew to Karachi, Pakistan for my final international show of the year. As you recall, I had been in Pakistan for six shows in February. This time, I performed at the Rotary Club of Karachi, and again, the hospitality was beyond compare, and the audience was superb.
Finally, at last, it was time for the long journey home. I flew from Karachi to Doha to Bangkok on Qatar Airways. I had a day in Thailand to decompress, then a short hop to Shanghai, then on Delta to Tokyo then New York.
When I left Intel to pursue my dream of doing standup comedy, I had no idea that comedy would enable me to travel the world and meet so many interesting and wonderful people.
I owe a world of thanks to my comedy teachers, to all of my clients all over the world who have booked me on over 1200+ shows in 28 countries, to all the folks who have attended my shows, to the thousands who have bought my CDs, DVDs and books, to the millions who have watched (and forwarded) my videos, to my old friends who supported me, to my new friends I’ve met all over the world, to the DJs, production people, waiters and waitresses I’ve worked with at my events, to my manager in India, to my commercial, voiceover and print agents in New York and LA, to the journalists who have interviewed me, to everyone at Intel who supported my comedy, especially Andy Grove, Pat Gelsinger and Brian Fravel, to the haters and trolls who motivated me, and to the late Maria Martin, who, with the help of Dana Sanfiorenzo, believed in me and helped me through the lowest, most desperate point in my life.
If you’ve read this far, I commend you! Now, take a peek inside my 96-page passport.