Nepalese to Perform at Gotham Comedy Club

Shailee Basnet (Photo via Everest Times)

New York City’s Gotham Comedy Club is a popular place for stand-up comedians. Rarely, however, has the club hosted a Nepalese audience, but Sept. 20 will be different.

Nepalese stand-up comedian Shailee Basnet, 34, is performing there for the first time. This news has created a stir among Nepalese living here, who are really excited to see her perform.

“My interest and my studies have helped me to land this opportunity,” said Basnet. “If lots of Nepalese come to watch me, this will really motivate me.”

Basnet’s background is in mountaineering, in which she has had an eccentric career. She was a leader of the “Seven Summits Women Team,” a team of Nepali women who climbed the seven highest peaks of seven continents. Basnet herself climbed Mount Everest in May 2008 and has scaled three other peaks on three continents. (Her team scaled all the seven peaks of seven continents but she did not climb all seven mountains, although she was the logistical lead for the team.) The team became the first female team in the world to conquer the highest peak on each continent with their final climb of Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica in December 2014.

Basnet has always been fond of cracking jokes. She performed her first stand-up in 2011 in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Her performance was appreciated by veteran stand-up comedian Manoj Gajurel, who recently caricatured Donald Trump.

“My interest in stand-up comedy was loved by veteran comedians and journalists of Nepal, which encouraged me,” she said. “Our first stand-up show was ‘Thatai Thatta’ which roughly translates to ‘Jokes and Jokes,’ in Nepalese. Then we gradually started to perform English language stand-ups in Nepal.”

She met an American citizen, Tyler McMahon, in Nepal while she was leading her mountaineering team. They dated each other for a while and got married in November 2010. She came to her husband’s home in Colorado for four months in 2013. During that stay, she had an opportunity to perform at the Bohemian Biergarten in Boulder. The show was called the Boulder Comedy Show. Audiences loved her sense of humor and the fact that she had climbed Mount Everest had people hooked while watching her perform.

She took a brief break in her comic career as her team’s mission of climbing the highest peaks of seven continents was in full swing in 2014. “We were committed to fulfilling our mission so I only focused on that then,” she said.

Once the mission was complete, she continued her stand-up career. She went to India to perform as well. She performed last April with Indian artist Vasu Primlani, which she said was well received. She decided to hone her comic skills so she came to New York in June.

She completed a six-week comedy course at Manhattan Comedy School. During that time, she met the founder of the school, Andy Engel. Without any hesitation, she approached him. She knew that he was also one of the producers at Gotham Comedy Club.

“When I met him, I told him that I had performed in Nepal, India and Colorado,” she said. “He was impressed with me and loved my journey.”

She never thought that she would be getting a break at Gotham but she said that she realized that America is always searching for new talent when she started meeting and talking to people.

She is fascinated to see the diversity in the stand-up comedians in the U.S. but she doesn’t feel good seeing the fact that out of the 10 highest-paid stand-up comedians, there is only one woman in the list.

“The U.S. still hasn’t had its first female president,” she said. “I think I came to the U.S. at the right time.”

She is going to represent Nepal at Gotham and she is both nervous and excited at the same time.

“I am blessed to get this opportunity,” she said. “I want to represent my country Nepal in the mainstream comedy circuit here. I really hope that lots of Nepalese come and watch me perform.”

She shared some highlights of her act. She will be making fun of herself in the beginning of it. She will also be cracking jokes about the social and political issues of third world countries.

“My content will also be about American current affairs but not about my personal life and sex life, which I think American comedies are heavily based on,” she said. “I will be sharing my experience of America.”

“My experience, the life I have seen so far, the lifestyle of Nepalese will be my content,” she said. “I will keep continuing this career and my dream is to reach [a point] higher than this.”



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