Dhaya Lakshminarayanan

Last week, California comedian Dhaya Lakshminarayanan shared one of the funniest works of the year so far in the form of her hilarious debut album, Dhayatribe. The release, out via Blonde Medicine, includes a collection of tracks about everything from Cheech & Chong to Zoom yoga to the positive side effects of mask-wearing in public.

“If you are a person who has come out of the pandemic being like, I just want to be entertained. I want to laugh. I want to have a good time, and I’m also not ready to see people because I don’t have social skills, this album is for you. You don’t have to go out. You don’t have to see anyone. You can stream it. If you’re a nerd like I am you can get it on vinyl,” said Lakshminarayanan by phone prior to Dhayatribe‘s release. “This encourages people to – not have to socialize – consume content and laugh and be happy without any kind of strenuous activity involved with going out into the world.”

The album was recorded during a pair of shows at the San Francisco Punch Line that Lakshminarayanan co-headlined with her friend, the equally hilarious Karinda Dobbins, whose debut comedy album, Black & Blue, also dropped last month. Although the two women have very different backgrounds, they have forged a friendship based on a shared sense of humor and outlook on the world.

“We’re very different on paper. Karinda’s queer. She’s Black. She’s a mom. She has a girlfriend. She’s originally from Detroit. I’m South Asian. I’m straight. I don’t have any kids. I grew up in the south and went to school in Massachusetts, but our sensibilities about the world are very similar. We have a friendship based on our values and the way we see the world. And we like to laugh together,” she said. “Collaboration is not often heard of and we wanted to really celebrate women of color and women comedians coming together.”

Though collaboration is rare in comedy, Lakshminarayanan has found a lot of laughs, and inspiration, from another duo – Cheech & Chong, who she talks about on the track “Where There’s Smoke.”

“I started watching Cheech & Chong with my younger brother, and we would just laugh. I think one of the perceptions about comedians is we only like to laugh at a certain kind of humor or it has to be the kind of humor you do. Don’t get me wrong, I love Stephen Colbert. I love Samantha Bee. I love smart satire and political comedy – Trevor Noah – but I also like a guy that falls down. That makes me laugh,” Lakshminarayanan said noting how Cheech & Chong are “very self-made” and impressive. “Cheech is an art collector. He’s been on Celebrity Jeopardy!. Tommy Chong, as we all know, is a marijuana rights activist and he’s super cool. In terms of the comedy world, they are so unique.”

Dhaya Lakshminarayanan

When it comes to the cover of Dhayatribe, which depicts a variety of yoga poses, Lakshminarayanan references the track “My People Invented It,” on which she details a Zoom yoga experience with an instructor whose lack of respect for the culture behind the practice caused her blood pressure to rise. It also serves as an empowering image reclaiming yoga from those who’ve co-opted it for their own purposes.

“One of the issues we keep talking about is appropriation and respect and culture. Yoga isn’t CrossFit. This comes from thousands of years of stuff. It’s a gift to the world,” said Lakshminarayanan. “Especially when there’s evangelicals saying, ‘You can do yoga in class but don’t say any of those spooky words because we don’t want you to become one of those people.’ So they’re taking what they want from a culture, a long-thriving religion, and just saying, ‘We’re gonna take it and pick out all the other stuff.’ We’re not going to make you join a cult. That’s CrossFit.”

From time to time, we’ve all felt like we’ve had to contort ourselves into uncomfortable positions just to navigate societal situations, but a good laugh is often a very effective treatment. A little bit of yoga never hurts either. With Dhayatribe, you get both.

“It was important to me to put yoga poses on the cover and have a brown person doing those yoga poses. We also hear when there are all these documentaries on Netflix like the one about the Bikram Yoga guy, so I wanted to show a Brown woman doing yoga and only charge for the album. You get the yoga for free,” she said with a laugh.

Dhayatribe is available to stream everywhere and can be purchased digitally or on vinyl via Bandcamp. Be sure to follow Dhaya Lakshminarayanan on Twitter to stay up-to-date with the comedian’s latest news and performance announcements. More information can be found at Dhayalive.com.

Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and...