YOU COULDN’T BE BLAMED for missing it. In the evening gloom on East 24th Street, a sign reading ‘New York Comedy Club’ flickers and fades. Inside, the drab red brick walls make the place look like a warehouse; only the smell of beer hints this is a club. A picture of Elvis Presley tacked to the wall provides the sole touch of glamour. A dozen men and three women sit glaring up at a man with a paunch and a microphone. The men perform, to applause and boos, and wives record the night on hand-held cameras. At the hapless performer’s feet lie paper balls-- tossed by the hard-to-please audience. Clubs like this are the starting points for comics in New York. Before they can have fans scrambling for their autographs, before they can headline shows at glitzy clubs, the would-be comics must first hone their skill in such places. Most of them will never make it any further.
Vidur Kapur was born and raised in India, and is now a confirmed New Yorker, who drinks vegetable juice and attends ‘hot yoga’ classes. A finalist for NBC’s Stand-Up for Diversity, he has also performed as part of the New York Comedy Festival, and uses this club as a “workout room.” He stands out among the usual denizens in their faded work jeans and checked shirts, since he is dressed in a top hat, high boots and skinny leather pants (which he says make his “testicles look like earrings”). “You want to bathe after sitting in these chairs,” he whispers, gingerly draping his coat across the back of a seat. Kapur has earned his snobbery; a decade ago, he started out in such venues. Today, he headlines shows at Carolines on Broadway, one of the most celebrated comedy clubs in this neon city. He belongs to a growing number of Indian comics who use the United States as their workshop, launch pad and stage.