Stand-up comedian and one-time SNL writer Nimesh Patel rocks onward

When stand-up comedian and one-time Saturday Night Live scribe Nimesh Patel wraps up his latest live showcase, the “Lucky Lefty Tour,” with dates in Philadelphia (March 10 at the Kimmel Cultural Campus) and Dallas (April 23 at the Majestic Theatre), the New Jersey native and occasional opening act for Chris Rock will show off just what dry wit and smart, wry observational comedy can be in the hands of a master – to say nothing of being up on the TikTok vibe and manipulating social media.

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A.D. Amorosi: So, what is with the “Lucky Lefty” bit?

Nimesh Patel: It is a double entrendre that will make sense during the show.  One of the meanings though is that I am lucky and I am left-handed.

A.D. Amorosi: The element of surprise. So, I know that you are fond of TikTok, firstly from your numbers on the social site, and also from your Thank You, China stand-up special. How has TikTok and social media changed not only your crowds, but, maybe the way that you make comedy?

Nimesh Patel: TikTok has made stand-up comedy and sketch comedy – comedy in general – a lot more accessible. Even the myriad of people who aren’t comedians but have built followings and tours on the strength of what they have done within 30 second clips. I do not think that it has changed my voice at all. What TikTok has done, for better or worse, propagated this notion that I do crowd work for most of my shows.

A.D. Amorosi: Not true?

Nimesh Patel: I think that what most people will find at a Nimesh Patel show is that there is crowd work – which is inherent in any stand-up comedy show. I put out so much crowd work because I have done so many shows. Doing 250 shows, there’s bound to be something worth your attention. The rationale behind me putting out so much crowd work is that I don’t have to burn through so much of the material that I will be doing at a next show. I’m not sure how audiences feel about hearing jokes that they’ve already heard.

A.D. Amorosi: Not good, in my opinion. But I’m certainly not speaking for everyone.

Nimesh Patel: I know that if I have come to a stand-up comedy show that I’m hoping to be surprised by what I hear. I don’t want it to be something that has been repeated a billion times on every platform, be it TikTok or Instagram or reels. So, I have used TikTok to market my stand-up without marketing any of the actual material.

A.D. Amorosi: Along with your Thank You, China special, do you own your own stuff?

Nimesh Patel: Yes. Thank You China was put up on YouTube. Jokes for Quarantine is my first hour that I put out, and I own that too. It’s Dark and Patel is Hot, yes I own that as well.

A.D. Amorosi: It is five years since you became a writer on Saturday Night Live. What is your recollection of getting in and finding yourself under the good graces of Lorne Michaels – and – even though you are gone from there, what is your feeling for where the show is going with the new cast?

Nimesh Patel:  My recollection of getting in on Saturday Night Live is one of the highest highs that I have ever felt. I still remember the text that I got from my good friend (SNL Weekend host) Michael Che when he told me that I was hired. I remember where I was when I got the news and who I told first – my wife, then my sister, then my parents. Once it was official and I was in at SNL, it was an incredible feeling, knowing that I was going to be a very small, almost infinitesimal part of the greatest ever comedy institution that America has ever seen – and will likely ever see. It has been running for almost 50 years, now, and there are very few things that have happened that have that sort of longevity. And has consistently been THAT good, as good as they are. To your second point, I have friends on the show. Che is one of my closest friends. I think that the show now is in a very good spot with its new cast. Ego, Chloe, Bowen and Heidi – who started when I was a writer there – they are some of the best comic performers to ever do it. SNL gets unnecessary criticism from people who don’t understand how impossible it is to make a 90 minute live program from scratch, from Monday to Saturday night – up until, and through the show being live, they are changing things and making it better. I think that people figure it is easy to make SNL with such an amount of resources, but they have no idea about the amount of work that goes into that program. The fact that it goes on, and gets even one laugh should be applauded by everyone that watches that program. It is still a great program and people are still watching. What are they mad at?

A.D. Amorosi: As someone who writes, is ‘writing’ the start of every joke or story that you convey during your stand-up work – are your sets mathematical in that fashion – or do you find yourself, onstage, to be more free form and improvisational?

Nimesh Patel: I really go through phases as an artist, and depends on where I am at within the creation cycle. For the last two years, I have been on the road after having built a fan base through TikTok. When I start out with something, it is really a combination of math and freeform thinking. I’ll have notes that I have scribbled down someplace, some joke ideas that I’ll pull out, an EverNote account that has thousands of absurd, nonsense pages in it. There may be more math at the end of a tour cycle – perhaps more editing and structural decisions. Joke decisions. But, still I don’t like to do into anything super polished. It removes the inherent spontaneity that makes stand-up fun.

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A.D. Amorosi: You have opened for Chris Rock and I know you think of him as in inspiration. What is your take on his Selective Outrage special at Netflix?

Nimesh Patel: I actually saw him when he started the tour in Atlantic City, live, but have yet to have seen the Netflix version. I was on stage that night. I’m curious to see what it looks like in its final form – I thought it was strong, then, and we were all anticipating his take on the whole Will Smith angle. That said, I wish I could recall that set. It was my birthday and I was a little but inebriated. Chris is, in no small part, responsible for where I am at in my career today, both from an inspirational standpoint and a professional one. He was the first person to give me a writing job, and he was the first person of his caliber to tell me I was funny at a point in my career when I didn’t really know what I was doing after having been rejected. Chris came to a show I was running to see someone else. I came on stage, I knew he was there and did my best material, and I heard him laugh – that was the only validation to shake me out of the ego funk that I was in. All praise to Chris.

A.D. Amorosi: Without trying to pry out of you your Lucky Lefty routine, what is funny to you today?

Nimesh Patel: That’s tough. I was scouting a venue where I am taping my next special in Brooklyn. I didn’t want to take an Uber home from where I was at because it would have been too expensive, so I decided that I would take a CitiBike. But, it is like 40 degrees in New York at the moment so I had to stop at Patagonia and buy $55 gloves so that my hands wouldn’t freeze. The whole ride home, I couldn’t stop but laugh at how dumb that was.

    • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

      A.D. Amorosi is an award-winning journalist who, along with working for the Philadelphia Weekly, writes regularly for Variety, Jazz Times, Flood and Wax Poetics, and hosts and co-produces his own SoundCloud-charting radio show, Theater in the Round for Pacifica National Public Radio station WPPM 106.5 FM and WPPM.org.

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