‘What’s Good?’ Is the Only Comedy Show in New York With a Side of Samosa

Despite (or maybe because of) the chaos, the commotion, the heat, the seating arrangement, the white family chatting idly in the front of the restaurant, What's Good? was one of the most memorable nights I’ve had this year. 

‘What’s Good?’ Is the Only Comedy Show in New York With a Side of Samosa

Hot Mic is a weekly column by Leah Abrams documenting, spotlighting, and reviewing live comedy in NYC. 

There are plenty of places to get dinner and a comedy show in New York: City Winery, 54 Below, and the Stand all have plenty of middling wilted salads, truffle fries, and decent-enough burgers on their menu. But, most likely, you’re there for the entertainment. Or, even more likely: you got dragged there by a friend.

But a few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I went to a comedy show for the food. 

What’s Good, is a new show hosted by Tej Khanna and Ibhan Kulkarni—two hilarious desi guys and members of the theater company Chicken Big, who I saw perform “Human Blender” at the Acme Revue in March. I think they’re great but if I’m being honest, what really caught my eye about their show was the venue: Benares Indian Restaurant in Tribeca, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. 

“Have you ever been to a comedy show and thought, ‘Wow this is an incredible lineup of some of NYC’s best comics… but at the same time, I’d really love a samosa right now,’” the show announced on Instagram. Actually, yes, I have felt that way. And I was eager to see if someone could make my dream come true.

The show itself really was a dream—a fever dream. It didn’t go smoothly whatsoever. Benares told Khanna and Kulkarni they could seat 70 people, so they sold 70 tickets; but in part because a white family in the front overstayed their table and refused to leave (then proceeded to talk loudly through the first three acts of the show), there were only 40 seats for the sold-out audience of ticketed guests. Thirty people squeezed in to stand by the bar. 

No matter—to make up for the seating debacle, Benares brought out mango tequila shots for everyone—including the lucky ones, who, like me, actually had a table. We ordered samosas, khasta gobi, and cocktails and waited for the show to begin. And waited… and waited. It was clearly a restaurant and not a comedy venue: the lights were too high, and it was so fucking hot that by the time they walked up for their opening set, Khanna and Kulkarni were already drenched in sweat. 

“This really is a brown show,” Kulkarni said. “We started 30 minutes late, it’s hot, and there are way too many people.”

“Yeah, this is now a hot yoga comedy show,” Khanna added.

To Khanna’s left sat about twelve members of his extended family—aunts and uncles who seemed mostly unamused through six straight sets of comedy. Despite all this—the chaos, the commotion, the heat, the seating arrangement, the white family chatting idly in the front of the restaurant—or maybe because of it, What’s Good? was one of the most memorable nights I’ve had all year. 

Divya Gunasekran kicked things off with a set about family and therapy. “People view male therapists the way they used to view women pilots,” she said. As someone who used to have a male therapist, I can confirm this is a thing. People look at you like you’ve just told them your heart surgeon is a cannibal. 

Next was James Azzaretti, Kulkarni’s roommate and frequent collaborator, who had a great bit about his Italian parents dropping the vowels at the end of Indian dishes to order “chicken biryan.’” At one point, he asked if anyone was going to feed him, and I got to hand him one of our samosas, which he ate live on stage. This was both fun and sad because then I had one less samosa.

There were two more white comedians on the lineup: Lily Armstrong and Benny Feldman, but even they could acknowledge that this wasn’t their audience. They both performed their typical sets (possibly because they were last-minute additions), missing the opportunity Azzaretti took to lean into the venue, the food, and the crowd. 

But as Kularni said at the top: this was a brown show, and as such, the best sets of the night were from brown comedians—especially the hosts themselves. 

“I recently saw my dad’s penis,” Khanna said. He paused. “Well, I guess I got my mom’s penis.” This one really got me. Especially because he said it in front of his actual father, who sat with his arms crossed, shaking his head. 

Overall, it wasn’t a perfect show by any means. The sound quality and lighting were not good; the temperature was swampy; it was crowded. But you have to admire the vision. Any space can be a stage if you have the right attitude; alt-comedy is all around us, in bodegas, barbershops, bowling alleys, yoga studios, and yes, Benares. And an even more radical proposition: the food at a comedy show doesn’t have to suck. With that alone, Khanna and Kulkarni are changing the culture, and this dinner-and-show watcher is forever grateful.

You can follow Khanna and Kulkarni on Instagram and check out their next What’s Good? Show sometime this summer.

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