Warren Viegas is making waves in the business of comedy
By ANNA FERNANDES
In an alternate universe, Warren Viegas is probably an accountant buried in paperwork and executing audits, but in our universe, he is a stand-up comedian running a successful comedy production outfit that has over the past one year organised shows with the best in the funny business.
Born in Mumbai, Warren moved with his family to Goa in 2004. Growing up, he says, he would watch any comedy that he could lay his hands on. “I never planned to do it as a job,” says Warren. “Comedy was always something I enjoyed. I used to be obsessed with Chandler’s character in the sitcom Friends. I remember I would memorise his lines and repeat them, much to the chagrin of my mother. She would say, ‘Life’s not a joke, Warren. It’s not going to pay you.’ Well, proved her wrong, didn’t I?” he laughs.
Inspired by many great comedians, from Charlie Chaplin to Sacha Baron Cohen, Louis C.K., and John Oliver, Warren says, Russell Peters was his main inspiration and first introduction to stand-up comedy. “I was about 15-16 when I first watched Russel Peters’ special Outsourced. It was crazy – I was like, wow, you can insult people, and they will pay you?”
Of course, stand-up comedy is so much more than just that. There’s a reason the growth of ‘stand up’ comedy in the entertainment landscape of the world has been exponential. To Warren, “Stand-up is an art form. It’s a platform for free speech and expression. Comedy is one of the most effective forms of expression that pushes the envelope of what is socially acceptable.”
For his undergraduate education, Warren moved to the United States to study finance at Hillsdale College. While on campus, Warren began exploring the stand-up comedy scene as a hobby and soon came to love it. “Your first night performing is always the hardest. The first time I performed was horrible. Think of it like going to work in your underpants – you’re doing something in front of a live audience – there’s a lot that can go wrong. But once you have a great night – it’s like a drug, you can never go back,” he says explaining his first experience as a stand-up comedian.
After he graduated, Warren enjoyed a brief stint at HBO’s Emmy-winning late night comedy show, ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.’ Speaking about his contributions there, he jokes, “I got coffee for the guy that got coffee for the guy that got coffee for the guy that got coffee for John.” Apart from being a professional human coffeemaker, he was also an editor and researcher for the show. However, his stint at ‘Last Week Tonight’ was short-lived; as Warren relates, “The government changed, and it turns out, if your boss bashes the president every day as part of a show, it’s not good for a visa.”
Moving back to India, Warren realised that the comedy-circuit was gradually picking up, however it wasn’t as evolved as it was in the west. “When I left India to go to college in 2010 there was no live comedy industry in India. The thought of doing stand-up as a career was laughable. Today, India is still a very small scene compared to America. There are more comedians who lived in my building alone than there are in India. But it’s definitely picking up.”
With the Indian comedy scene rapidly advancing in the metros, Warren decided it was high time to introduce comedy content that was intelligent, quirky, and culturally relevant to Goa as well. “That’s when I came up with the idea of starting a comedy club here. On a whim, I decided to call it Las Viegas Comedy Club, an albeit stupid pun on my last name.” LVC came into being early last year, as a comedy production outfit dedicated to promoting stand-up comedy in the state. LVC had its first show on February 10, 2017, featuring the ever popular Kenny Sebastian as their its first artist. “There was some apprehension over whether the show was going to be a success or no. We had no idea how to gauge how receptive Goans would be to stand-up. My mom was worried nobody would come, and ended up inviting a number of her friends just in case,” he laughs. The tickets for the event sold out in two days. In fact, they ended up turning away 400 people.
Since that first show at Institute Menezes Braganza, LVC has evolved immensely. “We have had more than 200 shows – I’ve lost count. And we are now present in fifteen cities around the country. All of our shows have sold out, every seat booked, we’ve literally had to turn people away. We have featured stars like Zakir Khan, Kanan Gill, Abhishek Upmanyu, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Kenny Sebastian, All India Bakchod and East India Comedy among others.”
About eight months back, Warren conceptualised the idea of the LVC Room. LVC Room, known as LVC Comedy and Music Cafe, is situated at the Caculo Mall, Panjim and serves as a nurturing platform for young local talent across the state. “So, we basically host open-mic events three nights a week alternating between music, poetry and comedy. For a newbie, performing in front of a live audience can be extremely intimidating. The purpose of the room is to polish the hidden gems in the state while providing them with a low-key, safe-space for them to perform and reach their true potential.”
As LVC’s popularity grew, Warren decided to foray into marketing, as well. LVC Advertising is a revolutionary new age marketing company dedicated to fulfilling all a brand’s every marketing need. “The social media following of our artists is in the hundreds of millions. So, we’ve actually had some pretty big brands piggyback off some of our events. These include Cadbury Five Star, Tinder, TATA Nexon, among others. Basically, any brand who is trying to reach the same audience as ours, that is, the demographic of ages between 18 to 30.” LVC offers tailored and innovative advertising packages to help brands grow their business, partnering with the best social media influencers in the country to make sure that a business gets the eyeballs and footfalls that they’ve been craving.
“Being in an industry that’s selling laughter and good times or some form of connection with people – it’s amazing. In terms of a philosophy, this may not work for everybody – but I think, the key is to find something that you really love, and make it your career. You can do a lot of things just for money, but if you are doing something that you would still really enjoy doing for free, you are likely to really invest your time and effort into it, and it wouldn’t feel like work. Getting paid is just an added bonus,” says Warren. Looking ahead, Warren’s plans for LVC include stepping away from the production aspect and leaving the gamut of operations to his team of energetic young professionals. “We have twenty team members in each city, so I think it’s time for me to let the ship sail on its own now.” With his sights firmly on further advancing the comedy revolution in the country, Warren definitely has some exciting plans for the future. He briefly mentions an upcoming deal with Amazon Prime without disclosing anything else
“I never planned to do it as a job. Comedy was always something I enjoyed. I used to be obsessed with Chandler’s character in the sitcom ‘Friends’. I remember I would memorise his lines and repeat them, much to the chagrin of my mother. She would say, ‘Life’s not a joke, Warren. It’s not going to pay you.’ Well, proved her wrong, didn’t I?”