By Jason Tanamor
You may know Gerry Bednob from his role in the movie, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Remember? He was the guy who worked with Andy (Steve Carrell). His name was Mooj and he always riffed with Jay. But did you know Bednob is also a stand-up comedian? He recently took time out of his busy schedule to riff with us.
Q - You're the first Bangladesh comedian I know. How many others are there?
A - Here is a little history for what it's worth. My grandfather was born in a part of India which is now Bangladesh created as recent as 1971. My family migrated to the West Indies (Trinidad) via London. Here I was "created." We then moved to Canada. I was a high school counselor in Toronto and then branched out to the next logical profession – stand-up comedy. When I inferred in my act that I am from Trinidad, hardly anyone knew where the fuck Trinidad was so my reference jokes made no sense. That's when I decided to pull from some of my background and the Bangladesh comic was born. I also realized that the word Bangladesh is funnier and a comic from there is so farfetched considering the overall situation there. So, I am a West Indian masquerading as an East Indian but who gives a fuck if you are funny, right? Make sense?
I have run into several Indian comics over recent years but as far as I know I have been the first for several years. Many of those comics tell me that I am their inspiration but I say, “Bullshit.” Unless my name in Hindi translates money, glamour, greed, hate my 8-4 job, lots of pussy, one-night stands, free drugs, insecurity, fucked-up club owners and bookers, groupies (some HIV'S thrown in there), joke thieves and hacks who are always "happy" for you - oh shit, I am still on the first question –
Q - Do you find it annoying when strange people come up to you and tell you jokes?
A - I don’t mind when strangers tell me jokes, and it’s almost always an old joke, but I do mind when they suggest that I add it to my act. My usual reply is, “I have too much respect for George Burns to use his joke.”
Q - How difficult is it being a foreigner in show business?
A - For a foreigner in show business it's not much different if the foreigner is being realistic and realizes that TV and movie audiences are geared to material they can identify with. So I personally don't expect a sitcom or movie to be centered around my ethnicity because it would be a hard sell plain and simple and investors don't intend to take chances. I won't. In my stand-up I start by introducing my background but I don't expect audiences to be thrilled for over 45 minutes about my background. There are just so many jokes there and it becomes tiring real fast so I move on to observations of local culture from my perspective. This is why Judd Apatow wisely used me sparingly in “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” I could not have fit into one of (Steve) Carell's friends. Think of how effectively Andy Kaufman was used in "Taxi." A foreigner should be ready for when called upon to fill in the "odd ball" role. Don't expect too much. I don't expect to fill in for Brad Pitt right now. Give me a couple months.
Q - Do you find yourself being stereotyped because of your ethnicity when it comes to TV and movie roles?
A - I find myself stereotyped but I accept the roles. But I won’t be prostituted. It has to be within the boundaries of what "my people" would do as opposed to what some producers think we would do. Outlandish and outrageous acts. I refuse to do a caricature of myself or background. Quite often some writers and suits have no idea what an Indian accent sounds like. Case in point - me. My accent is 100% Trinidadian on or off stage but so many people think it's Indian. To begin with there is no such thing as a specific Indian accent. There are literally thousands of different dialects in India. Think of the U.S. - Southern, Brooklyn, NY, accents. What's an American accent? I know a lot of Indian actors who whine about stereotype - 7-11 employees, etc. but I don't see them turning roles down. An Indian guy actually scolded me when I told him I was playing a 7-11 clerk. Guess what? He ended up playing my fucking son in that scene. Needless to say I needled that fucker for the two days of shooting. I kept saying to him, "So, how is my Brooklyn born son?" Just let them wait for the Indian doctor role which is in abundance.
Q - Being on "40 Year Old Virgin," how different is it auditioning now having been on a hit movie versus not having credits at all?
A - Auditions have been plentiful since “The Virgin.” More often than not it's just the offers based on “Virgin.”
Back to my accent. My agent asked me to do a Guru voice for “Avatar,” a Disney show. I told him I was not wasting my time because there were a zillion authentic Indians who would fit the role better. Then he said, “No, no, they wanted you and the same accent as in ‘Virgin.’” So there, a Trinidadian Guru. Wow!
Q - I met you at a club one time. You were talking about "40 Year Old Virgin" being your try out for future roles. How much has being on this movie helped so far?
A - Here is something interesting: I am in a VH1 series called, “Free Radio.” We start shooting the second season in January. The ad for my role was, "Looking for an actor like the guy from ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin.’" Guess who showed up to the chagrin of about 10 auditioners dressed like my character in the movie? I was the only one not dressed like me. Could you imagine if somebody had done me better than me? You would be reading my epitaph right now. One guy saw me walk in and said, “Fuck, what am I doing here?" And then he left. Actually, the star and casting director, Lance Krall, did not think I was available or would be interested. What? Try me. He said he was thrilled to have me on board.
Q - So, you're a successful stand-up comedian and have been in a hit movie. What else do you want to accomplish as an entertainer?
A - I would like to continue both my stand-up and TV and movie work. My stand-up keeps me confident because I play all roles - writer, director, etc. It keeps me fresh. There are no cuts and takes. One take and that's it. Fuck up or no fuck up, nobody to blame but me. Love the challenge. Judd Apatow allowed us to improvise - the sign of a secure writer/director. I would say 30% improv that he approved.
Q - What projects are you working on?
A - I am currently getting ready for Season 2 of “Free Radio” and I’m off to Vancouver to shoot a short film (no audition) in February.
Even in my brief appearance in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith were gracious enough to wave the audition. Hey, they knew I needed my Health Insurance coverage.
Q – So what are you doing now?
A - I am in Vegas, at the Riviera Hotel, NY's Eve week and at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City in March.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."
By Jason Tanamor