Nimesh Patel decided to drop his pre-med major during his junior year at NYU, worrying his parents, but telling them he would figure it all out. He started comedy in 2009 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His first time on stage was at an open mic at the Stress Factory, and then a few days later, he went to his first open mic in New York City. And now he’s one of New York City’s rising comedy stars known for killing on stage with smart and really funny jokes. In 2016, he wrote for the Oscars with Chris Rock, had a show picked up for Kevin Hart’s comedy network “LOL” at the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival and was featured at Carolines’ prestigious New York’s Funniest competition. And Nimesh has been one-third of the team running one of the hottest shows in town, Broken Comedy at Bar Matchless, along with Mike Denny and Michael Che. Comedy photographer Phil Provencio photographed Nimesh in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in and around Bar Matchless. All photography by Phil Provencio.
On becoming a comic when your parents want you to be a doctor….
The stereotype is true – a lot of Indian immigrant parents expect their kids to be doctors, and here’s why: they know of no other profession that will ALWAYS be around and ALWAYS pay enough to live well. But that’s not necessarily an Indian thing – to seek stability. It’s a lower class, ambitious mentality. It’s just concentrated in the Indian community and of my generation of Indians specifically, because the generation above me (my parents) were the first ones to arrive, and they were like “okay, we gotta stay stable because we’re here slaving away at factory and convenience store jobs and we can’t have that for our kids.” My generation’s kids are gonna be wild mother fuckers like these trust fund babies in Bed Stuy. I got away from the question – my parents wanted me to be a doctor ’cause we grew up lower middle class, to middle class, to upper middle class, back to middle class – and they saw stability in the doctor thing. When I decided to drop pre-med my junior year at NYU, their anger wasn’t out of disappointment, it was more out of fear. Like “WTF is this smug son of ours gonna do?” I think it’s turned down a bit, but every now and then my mom/dad will be like “when are you getting a job with insurance?”
Describing his own style of comedy…
I’m really just having fun with it. Like a fun conversation you’re having at a bar that every so often you gotta look around to make sure you’re not making anyone nearby offended. I like to let the writing speak, but am working actively on the performance aspect more. A lot of the “lets just talk” vibe comes from being in the moment, and for me that means I gotta slow shit down in my head and for the audience.
Speaking about a photo he took with Chris Rock at the Oscars…
Man – I sent that picture to my parents that night and said: “It’s gonna be okay.” Chris came to Matchless one night to check out another comic – the very funny Langston Kerman, and I knew Chris was there, so when I went up and just joked my ass off. He laughed and told me I was funny and 3 months later I got an email from his people saying he wanted me to help write for the Oscars. It was an honor and learning experience to be in that writers’ room. He’s currently on tour and I can’t wait to see what his special looks like whenever he puts it out. Having seen the initial run, I can tell you it’s gonna make a lot of comics turn their lives off and get back to pen and pad.
On a recent ACLU benefit he hosted at Matchless….
I said it was a benefit for the ACLU, but actually, I took all that money and gave it to Steve Bannon’s second Presidential Campaign Fund. JK JK, I took all the money and bought guns for the impending apocalypse. Seriously though – I was mulling an idea to do a fundraiser of some kind at Matchless for awhile. The well-flanneled people of Brooklyn were looking for an outlet to battle this administration in any way they could, as was I, but I was like – could we raise enough money? Then Che did his Planned Parenthood one at Knit (the Knitting Factory), and I was like shit – there’s a precedent. His 300+ tickets sold out so fast, and that indicated to me that my initial hunch was right – that people were itching to give back. So, we put together a dope ass lineup: Sasheer Zamata, Hasan Minhaj, Liza Treyger, Dan Soder, Louis Katz, Gary Vider, Mike Denny, Roy Wood Jr. and sold over 100 seats, and all that money (and then some!) went to the ACLU. And what a show it was. Thanks again to everyone, you included, for the dope ass pics.
Thoughts on being the #1 Google result when searching for Nimesh Patel…
Proud is not the right word, but I don’t know what the right word is. A surprised smug? I don’t know. I didn’t do anything besides tweet a lot. The other Nimesh Patels are doctors – they’re busy saving lives and shit. I did message the 2nd or 3rd result via email – he’s a world-renowned cardiologist in Texas – good hair and shit too – to see if he wanted to play life swap for a day. He didn’t respond. There’s a Nimesh Patel who is the CFO of the diamond company DeBeers. Diamond Illuminati. Nimesh Patels are overall doing great things, but I don’t know much beyond the 1st page of Google results. For all I know, the 3rd page could just be serial killers named Nimesh Patel. The annoying part is that my mom can google me and see weird interviews I’ve done – that’s how she found out I occasionally dabble in THC consumption. And she’ll also realize that every other Nimesh Patel is a doctor and just wonder where she went wrong with her son. It’s a complicated existence being this Nimesh Patel, but I get by.
What he learned from his grandfather who left India after running the largest school district in his state, to work as a cashier at Macy’s….
My takeaway is damn, what a dude, what confidence, what amazing advertising America must’ve had in the 60s and 70s. I’d like to see those ads. He was a boss in India, and he left it to come here. I don’t know when this country became such a place that believing in the American dream made you un-American, but that political discussion is for another magazine.
Advice to live by….
I don’t think I’m in a position to give advice. Who am I? I’ll just tell you what I try to do day-to-day and you can choose whatever you want to adapt, if anything. I think I live my life by so many mantras and mottos, it’s hard to rank them, so I’ll just spew them out. Listen. Life is more about listening than people think. Everything is a skill. And what I mean by that is that practicing something will make you better. God is good. You goddamn right God is good. Look at life. You have so much to appreciate. Find it.
His happy place…
My rooftop at my building during the spring/summer months when me and my girl can go chill up there, have some wine, cheese, and have family/friends over just laughing away. What is life beyond that? YOU STILL HAVEN’T SHOWN UP PHILLIP.
Check out Broken Comedy every Monday at Bar Matchless and the Comedy Cellar most weekends. HOLLA AT YOUR BOY.