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“My mom hates me,” comedian Kabir Singh tells a rapt audience at a Dry Bar comedy show in Provo, Utah. “I have two sisters. One’s a lawyer, the other’s a doctor — and I’m this.”
Quips like this have helped propel the 37-year-old Fremont comic to appearances on popular shows — including “Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution” on Comedy Central, “Dry Bar Comedy” on YouTube and “Family Guy” on Fox — a first-place win at the San Francisco International Comedy Competition and, now, a performance on NBC-TV competition series “America’s Got Talent,” coming up on the episode airing at 10 p.m. June 15.
Singh, a graduate of San Jose State University in San Jose and Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, didn’t have to go through the usual preliminary auditions for “America’s Got Talent.” He impressed a talent scout from the show with his first-place performance at the 2019 Big Sky Festival in Montana, a head-to-head competition between comics from all over the country.
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“I went from that moment straight to the judges,” the comedian says. Normally, before performing for current judges Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell, applicants must perform for the show’s producers at regional tryouts.
If Singh makes the cut June 15, he will need to survive two live shows to get to the finals — the chance of a lifetime for Singh, who was pitched headlong into the world of comedy in 2010 with almost no notice.
“My friends entered me in an open mic at Mission Pizza in Fremont,” Singh says. “I had never even seen stand-up. I had never been to a comedy show. And they didn’t tell me until two days before the show.”
After two all-nighters of frantic studying, Singh got a great reception playing to an audience of his friends, who had long enjoyed his humor.
Glowing with newfound confidence, he jumped wholeheartedly into the fray, performing at open mics at Stanford University and San Jose Improv.
“It was a complete s—show at both of them,” Singh says. “I realized, ‘Oh s—, this is not easy,’ but due to my severe addictive personality, I kept doing it.”
Tenacity and hard work paid off, and now Singh has a stellar resume, headlining in comedy clubs all over America, doing five or six shows a week post-COVID and hosting a special on Amazon Prime and the Starz Network. He makes his living as a comic, splitting his time between Los Angeles and Fremont.
Success hasn’t spoiled Singh, a colleague says.
“He’s always encouraging aspiring comedians,” says Anna May, a Hayward model and real estate agent who ventured into the world of Bay Area stand-up comedy in 2018.
May says Singh regularly invites her to perform at shows he produces at venues including Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco.
“What makes him special is his ability to relate to the average Joe,” May says.
One of the high points of Singh’s sets is his engagement with the audience, poking gentle fun at people without embarrassing them.
Singh said he learned to make people laugh as a survival mechanism.
“My parents originally immigrated from India to Canada, then Portland, where I was born,” Singh says. “When I was 9 years old, we moved back to India. It was a complete culture shock.”
The youngster had grown up in the U.S. speaking English, but found himself in a school where no English was spoken. Corporal punishment was allowed in the schools, and “it was brutal,” Singh says. “I realized the only way I could make friends was by making people laugh.”
The gambit was successful, but three years later, his parents moved to Fremont, and once again, he found himself fighting to survive. “I was too American for India and too Indian for America,” he says.
Again, his humor saved the day, and soon, he had close friends — eventually leading to the fateful day in 2010 when friends put him onstage.
One of Singh’s first performance venues was Tommy T’s Comedy Club in Pleasanton, which regularly features such comedy luminaries as George Lopez and Cedric the Entertainer. Now, Singh regularly headlines at the club.
“I knew from the beginning he was going to make it big,” says club owner Tommy Thomas.
“His skill and his delivery, his timing, are outstanding,” the club owner says. “Plus, his material is fresh, and he stays current. He is so likable right out of the gate. He has never let me down.”