In an effort to bring awareness to their group’s cause, student members of USC’s South Asian Rural Student Aid are hosting a comedy night at Ground Zero Performance Café. SARSA, which has been around for nearly three years, raises money in order to help fund the education of children in the Sadhana Village of India.
In addition to creating their own events, members take part in many local community service opportunities. Just recently, SARSA obtained non-profit status, and donated $1,000 this past week to Sadhana, funding a year’s worth of education for 10 children.
“Being in this USC bubble, you don’t realize how much you have until you see how other people are living,” Vice President of Operations Sarah Manchanda said. “The donation takes kids from the village and puts them on the path for schooling.”
Since the group is still relatively new, this year’s members have the unique position of molding the organization’s strategy.
Some of their current methods of fundraising include bake sales on Trousdale Parkway and charity denim sales at a local church. Riddhi Jain, the group’s vice president of finance, said the purpose of SARSA’s upcoming comedy show isn’t necessarily to raise money but to bring more exposure to the group.
“We’re trying to get our name out there on campus,” Jain said. “This is more of a marketing event.”
And as an introduction to the student body, SARSA’s upcoming event will feature a raffle, an open-mic night and performances from Indian comedians Baba Ji and Rajiv Satyal.
Satyal, who has opened for Tim Allen, Dave Chappelle and Jo Koy has been performing comedy for more than seven years after winning the amateur field of the Funniest Person in Cincinnati contest. Since then, he has performed both at the Laugh Factory and Comedy Store.
Another of his accomplishments is launching Indiancomedians.com, a site that assists event planners in booking Indian comedians, rating them according to vulgarity level. He is also on Facebook and Twitter under the name Funnyindian.
Baba Ji, the other comedian scheduled, has been performing comedy for about 10 years. He claims it all began with the feeling he received when people actually started laughing during his performance at an open mic night. Ji’s material comes from his real-life experiences including his transition from India to the United States.
“When funny things happen in your life you use them in your jokes,” Ji said. “If you tell your true story on the stage, people identify to that.”
Some of his favorite comedians include George Carlin, Louis Black, Russell Peters, Rosanne Barr and Sarah Silverman (whom he has worked with). He has done television shows and national tours. He also owns Cowboys and Turbans, the Mexican-Indian fusion restaurant inside the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard.
“You cannot write funny; funny happens,” Ji said. “Everyone has some comic within them and that it’s just a matter of letting it mature.”
Alongside the two comedic acts there will also be multiple other acts. Natalie Anguili, a singer-songwriter from New York will be performing with John Gudenzi from the band The Smiles. Anguili just recently released her first album, Sometimes, Always, Never.
Danielle Bennett, a senior majoring in political science, will be reciting spoken word poetry along with Cameron Ernst, a senior majoring in communication and theatre.
There will also be a performance by Aslibaat, a competive South Asian a cappella team, in addition to one by Harmeet Singh and Aabhimanyu Soin, who will be singing and playing piano.
If the above acts weren’t enough motivation to attend the event, SARSA will also be raffling off an iPod. A night that contains comedy, smoothies, a good cause and a chance at a free iPod is one that SARSA should be proud to have its group’s name on.