Vik Pandya is making a name for himself in stand-up comedy.
Pandya grew up in Naperville, attended Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora and graduated from DePaul University.
“I was more of a nerdy kid. “I joined cross-country running and it changed my life because it gave me a lot of discipline,” he said. “I wasn’t doing comedy; I was on the finance track. It’s definitely not comedy or entertainment.
“I was always consuming comedy in my personal life; I grew up on ‘Mad TV’ and ‘The Daily Show’ and watched a lot of stand-up specials when I was younger. I had one of my uncles who showed us things that were totally inappropriate. “I never saw comedy as something I could do.”
Still, after graduating college, she found herself trying an open mic night in 2014… and was met with immediate failure.
“My heart beat faster, I forgot everything I was going to say. I was supposed to do three minutes, I think I did 35 seconds and walked off stage. “This was a very traumatic situation,” he said. “I didn’t do stand-up for two months after that. Then I found Second City and started taking lessons.”
While working his 9-to-5 job in finance and revenue management, he took comedy improv classes on the weekends and began breaking into the world of stand-up. He trained at Second City for a year and continued to stand on the side.
He said it was a “healthy sense of delusion” that gave him the impetus to try to stand up in the first place. People said he was funny and witty. He loved being the center of attention at parties and family gatherings, but he didn’t see his work as stand-up comedy. He loved telling stories and assumed it would mean becoming a comedian.
“When you do standup, you immediately realize that yes, it is related, but you are trying to make those who don’t know you laugh, not those who understand you,” he said. “I think that’s why it’s such a shock to most people when they start to stand up. People don’t even know who you are and you’re trying to make them laugh. “It’s a huge learning curve, a huge skill.”
He started performing in Chicago and even started a production company.
“Ironically, I wasn’t trained in theater, but I was still benefiting from some of the skills of the professional world in comedy,” he said. “There is still a level of professionalism that you forget you have from working in the corporate world for 10 years.”
He’s now a full-time comedian, but he still wakes up before 9 a.m. to deal with emails, social media posts, and content creation. With each year he spent in stand-up, he was able to distinguish himself further, which was his goal.
The next big date, he said, is a headline date on January 7, 2024, at Zanies in Chicago.
Pandya has appeared in 19 comedy festivals across the country; Including San Francisco’s Sketchfest, NBC’s Breakout Fest, and the SLO (San Luis Obispo) Comedy Festival. Her album “Friends With 401(k) Benefits” debuted at No. 1 on iTunes, and her Dry Bar comedy special “No Refunds” is streaming drybarcomedy.com.
Interestingly, subscription-based content service OnlyFans approached him about producing a short special for OnlyFans TV (OFTV) series “LMAO.” While OnlyFans is known for its subscription-based adult content, OnlyFans TV is a free video platform with other original content.
“It’s funny how a comedian has a clean comedy special on Dry Bar and also a special on OnlyFans,” he said.
“I can do comedy for anyone – I can do clean comedy, I can do political… I can do more risqué stuff.” He said he got his ideas for the material by observing situations. He then takes these notes and observations and explains them.
“I improvise, I riff, and I try to find it on stage,” he said. “This is where improvisation comes in handy because you can talk about an idea and the process takes weeks or even months. I try to add a little bit every time I go on stage. Now in almost every show I try to make small changes or add something to keep myself entertained.”
Now that he’s the lead, he’s able to do longer sets and even asks the audience to be a part of the process. He said he shoots about an hour of new material a year.
“It’s kind of an expectation that all these people are always putting out specials, doing their own thing on YouTube or Patreon (all these places where you can consume content),” he said. “You’re always writing, you’re always up to date, you’re always up to date. That’s too much. It was like that in the 70s, you would do your show for 10 years, tour the country, and no one would know about it.
“Now you have to be constantly uplifting, and that’s the best and worst part of comedy. You can literally build your own audience and they will support you wherever you go, but you’re not necessarily mainstream. I think it’s very difficult to achieve mainstream fame right now. “That’s what we’re all trying to build right now, we’re trying to build our own audience.”
His behavior includes a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, as well as a few things people think but won’t say.
“But I do it in a way that might seem like I’m pulling a punch but it always borders on a self-deprecating angle, so I get away with it, if that makes sense,” he said. “It’s fun because it’s very relatable stuff about work, family, or dating.”
He also mentions that he is of Indian origin and is the child of immigrants.
“I went the finance route; I went a more structured route because growing up as an Indian, I didn’t even think about drama or theatre. “We do not focus on art,” he said. “But now I see more and more Indian and South Asian comedians. “It’s funny how much has changed in just nine years.”
He performs regularly at the Comedy Vault in Batavia and earlier this year performed at the Center Stage Theater in Naperville.
“As a Naperville native, it’s a nice feeling to go out there and sell it,” he said. “So I’ll definitely be back there next year, but what I want to encourage everyone to come to is the show at Zanies on January 7th. This is the biggest show I’ll be doing in Chicago for the next few months. It’s 7pm, so you’ll be home at 9:30.”
When: 19:00 January 7, 2024
Where: Zanies Comedy Nightclub, 1548 N. Wells St., Chicago
Information: 312-337-4027; chicago.zanies.com/
Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.