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Unnecessary Evil: Comedians Pay Tribute to Funny Indian American Neel Nanda Who Died Days After 34th Birthday

Unnecessary Evil: Comedians Pay Tribute to Funny Indian American Neel Nanda Who Died Days After 34th Birthday

  • The guy with the 'it factor' committed suicide in New York City after headlining shows in Toronto, Canada.

Neel Nanda may not have been a household name, but the Indian American stand-up comedian was well-known in the Los Angeles comic community. Last month, after performing for the first time in Toronto, Canada, and celebrating his 34th birthday, the writer and actor was found dead on Dec. 22 in New York City.

Confirming the news, his manager Greg Weiss told news outlets that his “client of over 11 years” was “not (only a) great comic (but) a good friend and a fantastic human being.” Although the cause of death hasn’t been revealed, several news reports have speculated that he died of suicide. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that Nanda headlined shows at the Jokers Theatre & Comedy Club in Toronto. Owner Dave Curran told the Los Angeles Times that he made the audience laugh. He had “achieved notable success with a strong number of club bookings and more than 100,000 followers on Instagram,” he said to LA Times about Nanda. He said he booked the comedian because he had an “it factor.” The two met six months ago, he told the publication, “adding that they “went from “strangers to feeling like friends over 24 hours. He does that with audiences too.”

According to his biography on IMDB, Nanda got his start performing stand-up in Atlanta. His routines are centered around his  Indian heritage and growing up with immigrant parents. 

He moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and eventually appeared on various networks, including Comedy Central, MTV, Viceland, IFC, Hulu and Amazon Prime. He has appeared on Comedy Central multiple times, including on “Adam Devine’s House Party,” and most recently for “Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents” in January. His Los Angeles show “Unnecessary Evil,” was named one of LA Weekly’s top 10 stand-up shows, according to Deadline. He first appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in 2017 for a five-minute on-air set. 

The young comedian produced the internet comedy horror series “Garland: Anthology.” He appeared on the Snapchat original series “Apocalypse Goals” for two episodes in 2020 and starred in the 2019 comedy horror film “Deep Murder.”

As news of Nanda’s death spread tributes began flowing on social media. Fellow Indian American comedian Rajiv Satyal posted a tribute on Facebook. The two had closed out a standup showcase at the Ha Ha Comedy Club & Cafe in Burbank, California, last year and  “hung out for a bit after.” Although he hardly knew him, Satyal knew Nanda was know “very funny.”

Comedian and writer Raj Desai who “had the pleasure of knowing him a little and seeing him perform,” called him “a sweet, funny guy.”

In an Instagram post, Baltimore comedy club The Port shared a tribute to Nanda. “It is with a very heavy heart we say goodbye to comedy great,” the club captioned a photo of Nanda performing. “Absolutely shocked by the news. Such a positive force for comedy and a huge loss to our community. Rest in Peace Neel. Thank you for gracing our stage and piano, a great headliner, gone too soon.”

Several contemporaries had nothing but compliments for Nanda. Comedian Eli Olsberg called him “one of the nice and hardest working ones we had.”

“RIP Neel Nanda, a great comic who built a whole comedy scene in Santa Monica nearly single-handedly and always gave his all and was welcoming to everyone,” comic John Roy wrote on X.

Matt Rife called him “one of the nicest” people in the industry.

Comedian, writer, producer, and actor Lou Perez described Nanda as “a talented comedian and a warm human being.” He also had an important message for many struggling with mental health issues. “If you are contemplating suicide consider calling the suicide hotline at 988. It’s free and anonymous,” he wrote. “If you are someone struggling with suicidal ideation make a promise to a friend or to yourself that you’ll talk to someone before doing it.” 

(Top photo, Neel Nanda/Instagram)

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