Meet Mahesh Kotagi, writer, producer, comedian and self-proclaimed nice guy. The 30-year-old hails from Dallas but is very clear about one thing—he has no Southern accent.
“Although that would be pretty funny,” he admitted.
There’s something else you should know about Kotagi: comedy is very, very important to him—but it’s not his only occupation. Kotagi, who holds a doctorate degree, works as a pharmacist who does cancer research as his day job.
“They laughed,” Kotagi recalled about telling his family he wanted to do standup comedy. “They told me to go study some more. But when I started doing it they were cool with it—after I finished pharmacy school of course. I am still Indian.”
Kotagi has loved comedy ever since he saw his first standup special back when he was still in middle school. But when asked how he spent most of his childhood, he said he “probably just ate a lot of pizza and candy,” with no mention of comedy.
Still, comedy became more than just an interest for Kotagi for a simple reason: “I love making people laugh and happy. Stand up seemed like the perfect medium for that. The first time I ever got on stage and got my first laugh, I was hooked. I knew comedy was the thing to do,” Kotagi said of his love for comedy. “I love making people forget about their problems for a little while. Seeing those smiles is great.”
Being in front of a crowd is nothing new for Kotagi—he’s always been a performer of sorts. “I used to play guitar in a band in high school and college. I love being in front of people,” he confessed. But one performance was unlike the others: “Performing on a sold out show at Carolines’ on Broadway was pretty awesome,” he said, calling that performance his career highlight thus far.
[Photo Source: Facebook/Mahesh Kotagi]
But it hasn’t all been wonderful experiences for Kotagi’s comedy career. “You do a lot of horrible shows before making a name for yourself—shows where literally no one is listening to you or even cares you are doing it. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the experience and doing what you love doing.”
Kotagi credits fellow South Asian comedians with making the entertainment industry a bit more receptive to minatory talents. “I think things are getting a bit better now with people like Russell Peters and Aziz Ansari opening doors for us but it’s still really difficult,” he said of working to break into the industry as a South Asian male.
But unlike many minority comedians, Kotagi doesn’t rely heavily on using his ethnicity when coming up with material. “I try to keep it open so my comedy is for everybody”
So, what’s next for Kotagi in the immediate future? “A nap,” he humorously admitted. In the distant future, though, this comedian/pharmacist/nice guy hopes to add another title to his resume: a father. “My kids will be hilarious,” Kotagi said—and we agree!