You might call it “Are You Smarter Than A Naturalized Citizen?”
In his new, interactive, online show “The Citizen Revolution: A Virtual Stand Up Comedy Show,” Krish Mohan will ask someone in his Zoom audience to answer 10 questions from a U.S. citizenship test.
It’s no random challenge: Mohan, 31, was born in India and emigrated to Pittsburgh with his family at age 8. And he became a U.S. citizen in December, so that civics-style test is still fresh to him.
The bit exemplifies both the style and subject matter of this nationally touring, politically minded comic. And the online approach reflects the times: Mohan has had to cancel or postpone more than 50 performance dates this spring and summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The rollout of “Citizen Revolution” roughly coincides with the June 1 release of Mohan’s new live album, “Politely Angry.” The record draws on performances this spring in St. Louis, Mo., Biloxi, Miss., and Rochester, N.Y. (It was supposed to have been recorded at later dates, in other towns including Pittsburgh, but the pandemic forced the change.)
On the album, Mohan takes on topics including organized religion, race, and the absurdity of tourism, with extended bits about visiting his homeland of India. He looks at how different countries use monuments to express national identity, arguing that the Statue of Liberty doesn’t work for the U.S. because “she’s a woman … and she’s French!” He even gets into more abstract matters, like the nature of money and the workings of the Federal Reserve.
It’s an approach that draws on the legacy of his comedy heroes, like George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks. And he said there's a point to what he does beyond the jokes.
“If I can get people to laugh at some of the more ridiculous things that we do and consider normal, then we can at least talk about those difficult topics, and I think comedy’s a great way to do that,” he said.
His previous live album was titled "Empathy On Sale."
However, Mohan consciously avoids purely topical, headline-based humor, or even extended riffs on public figures.
“I kind of decided against it, because I think the ideas are more important than the people that represent them,” he said. “When you just discuss the idea in and of itself, you encourage people to have their own thoughts and opinions and feeling about them, and hopefully express them in a reasonable manner.”
Tickets to “Citizen Revolution” are $5 per household. The show’s first performances were this month. Via Zoom, Mohan can hear his audience, and often responds to what they say, as if it were one of the small theaters, bars, Fringe festivals or indie comedy joints he plays on the road.
The next show is Friday. “Citizen Revolution” will then resume June 5, and continue weekly through July, he said. Each show will be considerably different, and a bit more topical than usual for him, incorporating PowerPoint-style illustrations and even some video newsclips, he said.