Vir Das Outside In - The Lockdown Special Review: Heartwarming, relatable lockdown comedy
Vir Das' latest Netflix comedy special is a 50-minute fun ride that hits all the right chords and is a relatable call-back to the lockdown times
To live is to keep moving. Vir Das has lived by this Jerry Seinfeld quote on life and stagnation during the lockdown. When the world came to a stand-still due to COVID-19, Vir was pushing through it, one virtual comedy show after another. His latest Netflix special Outside In is a compilation of these Zoom shows.
Vir speaks with people from across the world, and he begins each segment with one standard question – “What will be the first thing you do after the lockdown?” People pitch in their answers, and Vir always manages to turn even the most despondent of answers into a brilliant quip. You begin to wonder if there will be a stand-alone (or here, a sit-alone) scripted monologue of Vir, and realise that the entire special is a well-edited block of crowdsourced work, and Vir’s conversation is both with the on-screen audience and you.
It begins with the audience venting about their problems during the lockdown – some very desperate, some very relatable, and a few first-world issues too. Vir's quick wit and warm presence make an impact during this.
As the special progresses, something unexpected happens. You realise that it’s not just another comedy show. Vir reminds you that he himself is in lockdown, and as any human during a crisis, he feels the hopelessness that hit all of us.
He doesn’t hide his emotions. At one point, he thinks out loud: “People come to see a Vir Das show to forget their sh**. They don’t come to see mine. So put your sh** away.” He detaches and treats himself as just another storyteller.
As Vir moves from one topic to another – from Donald Trump to the National Institute of Fashion Technology – he doesn’t shy away from making abrasive jokes about himself. For instance, his joke on his 2016 film Maztizaade, which gets a lot of chuckles.
Another example is when Vir talks about the controversy that happened when one of his neighbours sneezed at him and threatened to slap him. Vir inserts a first reaction video, where he says that he will eventually make jokes about the incident, and it immediately cuts to him passing a one-liner about it in a segment. Such moments ground us and take us back to the lockdown days.
The minimal production and lack of live-stage audience do not affect the quality of the special one bit. In fact, jokes that might have not worked well on stage, work here, and the music aids the narration well. Some jokes may fail to hit the mark, but even before you process it, another one-liner hits you and it’s so relatable and funny that you just move on.
The most beautiful thing happens towards the end. After the credits roll, we see pictures and videos of the people we saw throughout the show, doing what they said they wanted to do after the lockdown. It’s an overwhelming moment and it is bound to fill anyone with joy and hope. In a way, Vir has made his own audience into characters and even provided them with an arc.