Nimesh Patel: seeing the comedy in everything

Nimesh Patel performs a standup routine on stage. Patel has written for Hasan Minhaj, Lilly Singh and Chris Rock, and will be performing in Atlanta this weekend. // Photo courtesy of Preet Mandavia

Last week, The Technique interviewed comedian Nimesh Patel ahead of his show at the Tabernacle on Nov. 4. Students will recognize Patel as the headline performance of the Student Centers Programs Council (SCPC) Spring Comedy Show this past April. Excerpts from Patel’s shows have gone viral on TikTok and Instagram, and he also served as the first Indian-American writer for “Saturday Night Live” (“SNL”), mainly writing jokes for “Weekend Update.”

Patel made it clear how grateful he was for the success he found in standup comedy. He attributed his involvement with “SNL” and “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” to his standup and talked about how he puts his best effort into his work with a “mamba mentality.” Many of Patel’s performances are on YouTube, such as “Lucky Lefty,” “Thank You China” and “Jokes for Quarantine.” 

Patel discussed the path he had taken to end up where he is, including his time at New York University (NYU). Patel graduated from NYU with a finance degree in 2008 and planned to be a hedge fund analyst, except, in his words, “2008 was not a good year to be a finance major.” He said his family supports his pivot to comedy and that his sister and cousins are his number one fans. He drew inspiration from comedic staples such as Chris Rock, Hannibal Buress and Russell Peters, describing his first comedy set as a ”Chris Rock impression.”

When asked about his creative process, Patel attributed his material to the ability to see comedy in any situation, especially the ones that would typically make someone sad or angry. Patel says that most comedians have a silver lining to tragedy — getting new standup material. In 2017, Patel was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and he discussed how simply talking and making jokes about it in standup shows helped him get through his recovery process by giving him exposure therapy. The instant he got his diagnosis, he was taking notes to add to his standup; Patel said it took away the sadness and anger typically felt by cancer patients. In his words, ”What’s funnier than losing a ball?” 

Patel’s comedy is direct and unapologetic, evidenced by the most memorable interaction he had with a fan. During one of his shows in Atlanta, one of his audience members was a Green Beret Marine. Patel asked him point blank, “Have you ever shot someone who looked like me?” 

When asked where he saw himself in five to ten years, Patel’s response was just as direct: “I’ll be dead, or maybe I’ll be a hedge fund analyst.” 

Patel clarified that his real goal for the future is to excel at his standup. He said he thinks many people have the opportunity to be the best at what they are doing but few people do, and he wanted to be one of those few. He also discussed the example he wished to set in terms of South Asian representation in comedy — in making the entertainment industry seem more accessible. 

Patel described performing for Tech as a “fantastic time” and “one of his best college comedy experiences,” and he invited students to come see his show on Nov. 4 at the Tabernacle. Tickets and information can be found at