|"I am an expert on layoffs. Just like Fire drills, every company should have Fired Drills. The alarm goes off, you pack up your crap and leave the building. The all clear alarm would say: "This was just a drill. If it were to be the real layoff, the security guard would have been much bigger and your severance package much smaller."
When the dotcom bust came, Sai Ranade, a chemical engineer who had worked for companies like Aspect Technology, Arco Chemicals and Jacobs Engineering, found himself laid off. So he just laid on a whole new career as a stand up comic. He took a course with Jimmy Pineapple in stand up comedy and had his first paid gig at Laugh Spot in Houston. They liked him so much they booked him as an opener for Bob Zany. In 2000 Ed McMahon hosted The Next Best Star, picking 36 upcoming comedians and Ranade not only made it to the finals, but was the grand winner. McMahon invited him to be a guest on a show he was doing in Hollywood and got him a booking at the Improv.
Ranade, with his fresh sense of humor, has managed to stride the Indian American divide, chatting as easily about Bollywood and cricket as George Bush and layoffs. His genuine Indian accent is almost part of the charm, making his FOB stories ring true. He takes on political, social and cultural issues, which he says have become even more important since 9/11: "Many desis have decided not to talk about these things and I'm talking about them. Audiences laugh and recognize we are in the same boat. If I find some policies troublesome I try to find the humor in them and talk about it."
Ranade has performed at major clubs in the United States and traveled to nine states. He says, "Humor is operating on the edge and the Indian community is getting used to it, but after one of the shows, an Indian came up to me and said, "Oh, yeah, this was really good but can you not make fun of us?" And I'm like, "Well, the whole idea of this is to look inward and see our oddities." Not that anything is good or bad, but some of the things we do are odd and we have to observe those and enjoy them because that's who we are."