By Mark Aldrich
[Editor’s Note: Meghan Jenkins would like to direct your attention to some stand-up comedians, comics, and performers that she has seen and loves. This series of profiles and Q&As is her way of saying about some performers, “I don’t know how this person hasn’t blown up yet, so if we can help get them some attention with MeghaZine, let’s do that.”

One of the first stand-ups that both Meghan and I thought of for this feature is Kunal C. Arora, a NYC-based stand-up whose Salt of the Earth Tour commences today, April 1, and continues through the month. Catch him if you can:

Kunal C. Arora. Photo copyright Will DeVito.
Salt of the Earth Tour w/ Dennis Rooney
Brokerage Comedy Club, April 1-2—Ticket Info
Sandman Comedy Club, April 6— Ticket Info
Getaway Comedy, April 8—Ticket Info
Beauty Parlor Comedy, April 9— Ticket Info
We give you now some of the comedy of Kunal C. Arora and an exclusive chat between him and our editor-in-chief, me.—Mark]

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“A TED Talk about bike theft.” In stand-up, a line like that is never the punchline (or shouldn’t be), it is an add-on, a break in the middle of a longish anecdote. In Kunal Arora’s hands, it is an off-ramp from his story, a flight of wit that does not need to be in the anecdote, but because it is there the entire bit instantly acquires a greater depth and context and the punchline when it comes is that much more hilarious.

The quote I share is a throwaway line in a story about Kunal Arora’s attempt to retrieve a stolen bicycle (I won’t spoil the ending for you), seen in his first half-hour comedy special, Comedy Under House Arrest, recorded at The Grisly Pear in 2020:

Just when you realize that you are invested in his quest for bicycle justice and that you want to hear the story through to the end, the TED Talk line addresses those thoughts in this sort of way: You didn’t know I was going to give you all these details, but here we are. And he does it in a mere six words. That is a deeply honed comedy skill displayed with a confident casualness.

I first saw Kunal C. Arora and his witty, sarcastic, observational comedy in 2020, when the pandemic and subsequent quarantines forced us all inside, and live performers found ways to develop online audiences. Meghan Jenkins and I had been invited to be judges for an online stand-up comedy competition hosted by Todd Montesi of UG Comedy. This was a way for Montesi and his fellow stand-ups to perform, get some workshop-type feedback, and hear laughter even if only through their laptop speakers.

I do not remember if Kunal won the competition that week, but I do remember that soon after he started his set my pen began to write things down: I wanted to track the logical flow of his material. With other performers, I jotted punchlines down, noted their energy, came to appreciate their ad-lib skills. Kunal’s work caught my ear. There are many, many funny and brilliantly skilled stand-up comedians at work right now. Kunal is one of those who ought to be known by more comedy fans, heard by more audiences, seen in more venues.

Luckily, his career is on an upward trajectory: he performs regularly in the New York City clubs; his first half-hour special is on YouTube; his first album, Draw 4, is available on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Bandcamp); he writes essays on his website; he’s acted in a web series, The Unmovers; and he is the host of his own podcast, Meet Me Outside (also on Apple Podcasts), with his cohost Dennis Rooney.

I asked Kunal some questions this week about his career, the night-to-night work of a comic, his writing life. He was kind enough to write back. I was going to say that I sat down to talk with Kunal, but the fact is we exchanged emails, and I only know that I was seated. He may have been standing when he responded. This was the last exchange:

Do you have a five-year plan or anything like that for your career? What are your ambitions?
I hope to one day easily afford a Honda Accord. Like I could walk into a dealership and pay the sticker price. They are such beautiful cars. That or I’ll end up selling Hondas. They kinda sell themselves.

And here was how we worked up to that:

From your experience, how many months of work does it take to develop a half-hour like you have [with the YouTube special] there?
I would say it took 11 years to develop it because that was how long I was doing it when that half hour was filmed. I probably should have started a retirement account back then too.

When do you know you have a solid 30 minutes?
I think the best way to know that you have a solid 30 minutes is when you don’t feel like it’s 30 minutes long. Also, if you’re supposed to do 45, those last 15 are going to make you miss those 30.

[H]ow long does a line or a joke sit in a notebook before you start to try it out? When do you know that it “works”?
There is no limit on that. There are jokes I wrote that will sit in my notebook for decades before I can tell people about the time I accidentally murdered that vagrant.
You know it works when people laugh more often than look at you weird.

At what age did you notice that you are a stand-up? When you were a kid, did you know that there’s a career out there for someone like you, did you know you could be a stand-up? At what age did you start to work in clubs? Was stand-up in the back of your mind as a dream but you tried a more conventional life at first?
It was at 28 that I realized that every other job was going to make me miserable. I didn’t know you could do this as a job. It made zero sense to me. Sometimes, I’m still blown away that someone paid me to talk to people who were eating mozzarella sticks. At that point, I’ve usually hidden the money in my socks when the person who paid me also has that realization.

Have you studied stage work, public speaking, acting with an acting coach? You have a solid stage presence and command, and you dip and dive into different voices, so I’m wondering if that is simply the effect of thousands of nights on stage?
I’ve done all those things but the greatest effect was those countless nights on stage telling people I keep a shiv on me.

You’ve done 35 episodes of Meet Me Outside so far. Does a podcast play a role in your writing material for stand-up or is it its own unique venue for your work?
Whether it does or doesn’t, it’s not intentional. Don’t call it a dysfunction either! It just happens to every guy from time to time.

Your first live stand-up experience? When and where was it and what do you remember about how you felt while you were on stage?
I saw Dane Cook at The Comic Strip. It was right before he blew up. I knew right then and there that I would become a standup comedian and would never have to pay a cover charge or two drink minimum again.

And hecklers? Are you one of those performers who thinks they’re just part of the show and they don’t get under your skin?
Hecklers wouldn’t exist in an ideal world. Nobody is going to heckle you during a late night set or your Netflix special. Just because someone uploads a video of them owning a heckler, it doesn’t mean they should exist. It means that something along the way failed because of the situation that now exists.

Do you have a five-year plan or anything like that for your career? What are your ambitions?
I hope to one day easily afford a Honda Accord. Like I could walk into a dealership and pay the sticker price. They are such beautiful cars. That or I’ll end up selling Hondas. They kinda sell themselves.

My thanks to Kunal C. Arora for his honest and hilarious responses, and Meghan and I agree that he is a terrific stand-up who is well worth your time and that we hope his career continues its run of success.

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Mark Aldrich is a journalist, award-winning humor columnist, publisher/editor of Meghan-Jenkins.com, writer/performer on the Mark Aldrich & Panda show, and writer/performer with the Magnificent Glass Pelican radio comedy improv group, now in its thirty-first season:

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Meghan Jenkins is an actor, comedian, radio personality, artist, author, musician, model.

Panda’s Dance Party, Vol. 4 was released on March 27, 2022, and is available from these fine music services: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Amazon Music, deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Juno Download.

As a model, Meghan has been invited by Maxim and Miss Jetset magazines to compete several times in contests to appear on a future magazine cover. Fans vote for their favorite model.

On December 14, 2021, Safety Date, Meghan Jenkins’ second book, was published. Meghan writes, “This book is dedicated to life, love and romance. This is also a humor book. Don’t take this too seriously. Whatever you have been through, if you are married or single, this book is for you. Safety first.”

The Adventures of Pizza Alien, a novel of interlocking short stories by Meghan Jenkins, is is available through Lulu.com and the online book retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The Adventures of Pizza Alien is available for $18.

The six titles by Meghan Jenkins. Photo by Mark Aldrich.

Panda’s Dance Party, Vol. 3 is available from these fine music services: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Amazon Music, deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Juno Download.

Panda’s Dance Party, Vol. 2 is available here: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Amazon Music, deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Juno Download.

Panda’s Dance Party, Meghan’s first album, was released in December 2020. It is available to purchase, download, and stream on every music platform: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Amazon Music, deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Juno Download.

Meghan is a brand ambassador for Pineapple Clothing. Use the code “MegJen” for a 20% discount!

Meghan’s new internet comedy show, “Mark Aldrich and Panda,” debuted in August 2021.

You can see each episode of Meghan’s previous internet show here: Camp Panda.

Meghan is the founder and host of the live comedy improv show The The Ding Wrong Show, recorded on Zoom and seen on YouTube.

In 2018-’19, she was one of the feature performers in the longest running improv comedy show at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood, California, The Ding Dong Show.

From 2017 to 2018, she was the host of her self-titled podcast, The Meghan Jenkins Show, which is available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, and Soundcloud:

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Follow Meghan on Instagram!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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