Pushing buttons

W hen songwriter Liss Victory was 17 years old, she became poor. Not just the kind of poor that can’t buy the newest iPhone, even on a payment plan, but the kind of bloody, abusive poor of hunger, fear, and prioritizing scraping up rent over personal worth and safety. The kind of poor that sticks […]

TransContinental Variety Show at South Park Tavern

Krish Mohan (left) and Liss Victory bring their unique perspective on the world (and fashion) to South Park Tavern for a lively variety show. Photo: Ken Kerr.

By Emma Jarman

When songwriter Liss Victory was 17 years old, she became poor. Not just the kind of poor that can’t buy the newest iPhone, even on a payment plan, but the kind of bloody, abusive poor of hunger, fear, and prioritizing scraping up rent over personal worth and safety. The kind of poor that sticks with you even when you’re not anymore. The kind that builds a foundation for future social activism and the ability to write one hell of a protest song.

When Krish Mohan was 13 years old, his immigrant family faced deportation when his dad lost his job and green card sponsorship, only five years after arriving from India. So soon after 9/11, in the middle of his fifth American holiday season and too young for his mother to worry him with explanations, Mohan was suddenly hyper aware of immigration in the United States, with no one to talk to about it. So he watched The Daily Show, eavesdropped on his parents conversations, talked even when people said he shouldn’t, and grew up to be a comedian that continues to explore global politics through humor and discourse.

Now, Victory and Mohan, having met in a comedy club and now engaged to be married, travel the country headlining their own TransContinental Variety Show, utilizing performance as a vehicle for positive change.

This socially conscious happy hour of activism and engagement will make a stop at South Park Tavern in Dayton, September 7 from 8 to 10 p.m. Mohan’s comedy hour, bookended by Victory’s opening and closing music acts both focus on togetherness and sweeping social issues.

“I want to make the world a better place,” Victory said. “That’s my whole life’s goal and I want to do it through music.”

The couple wants to make clear, though, that the show is for everybody, not just people who agree with each other.

“It’s like putting pieces of a puzzle on a table,” Mohan said, “and we might have started with 10 pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle. But the more we go talk to people the more pieces they give us, and the more we can put the whole picture together. We differ on certain things, we get mad at each other. But then have to remind ourselves it’s fine, we just see things differently and both of us working together with our differences can have a better advantage of working through a problem.”

Clearly, with subject matter ranging from hot button issues like war and poverty to hotter button issues like immigration and gun control, there will be contention among viewers of even the most similar shades of red and blue. Victory and Mohan acknowledge this, embrace it, facilitate and moderate it.

“It’s not all about what happens on the stage,” Victory said. “It’s about what happens after the show.”

One of the things the pair loves most about performing is adding to a larger conversation, and watching those conversations unfold before them, live and in real time. In fact, Mohan pointed out, since the 2016 election they have seen a more diverse crowd buying seats at their shows. In a time of divisiveness, tribal politics and black and white stances on greyscale issues, the TransContinental Variety Show seems to have created quite the opposite environment.

“I think it’s the idea,” Mohan said, “that if you come to a show regardless of what you believe, what you identify yourself as, who you voted for, just come with an open mind and understand that we’re not here to tear you down. We’re here to try to build everything up together.”

The underlying theme of interdependence, regardless of political leaning or fundamental belief systems, runs strong in their carefully curated content. If you’re looking to understand how, despite our differences, disagreements and even disdain for one another for whatever reason, we really all do need each other, check out TransCon. If you want to know why the conservative farmer in Montana needs the liberal IT guy in Chicago, check out TransCon. If you want to drink a beer and sing a song about the Syrian Refugee Crisis sandwiched between a man who hides guns behind his toilet (just in case) and a bleeding heart liberal who insists there are racist undertones in a show by an Indian-American comedian in a tunic engaged to a red-haired white woman songwriter, check out TransCon.

“A lot of what we talk about is why we’re divided, and why it doesn’t have to be such a point of contention, and why it’s ok to be political,” Victory said.

She wants to change the world and she sees it happening: Togetherness, inclusion, conversations.

“Most of the time, if you get people together talking in person, looking each other in the eyes, face to face, they can have differences of opinion and they’ll be able to understand each other,” Victory said. “On the Internet, you can write somebody off, because they’re not a human being. But if you’re in a public place and discussing things, and Krish and I generally moderate, usually that doesn’t happen. If you have people together in a physical form, which is another benefit of the live shows, they’re discussing things.”

You’ll just have to be there.

The TransContinental Variety show comes to South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave., Dayton, on September 7 from 8 to 10 p.m. No cover. For more information visit
ramennoodlescomedy.com or bit.ly/SPT-transcon

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