Abby Govindan has had a lot of practice embarrassing her parents. While she says they’re now proud of her, the 25-year-old stand-up comedian is now hitting the road with her show, “How to Embarrass Your Immigrant Parents.” You can catch it in Portland on July 21, Seattle on July 29, and Vancouver on July 30

I spoke with Govindan about her work, getting personal with comedy, and that whole situation she got into with Netflix’s Emily in Paris (which she definitely wrote).

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

THE STRANGER: How long has this show been in the works? 

ABBY GOVINDAN: I have been doing stand-up comedy for a cumulative two-and-a-half years. I took a year-and-a-half off during the pandemic, but when I say I’ve been working on the show for a few years, I mean... all of these jokes [are] from when I first started doing comedy until now, [and] I knew that I wanted to craft them into an hour. This is not just an hour of stand-up; it's also a storytelling experience...

When people ask me who my biggest influences are... I say Daniel Sloss, Hasan Minhaj, and Hannah Gadsby. They not only tell jokes, but over the course of an hour, they really tell a pertinent story. You really feel like you’re on a journey with them, so I was really, really inspired by that format. 

Have your parents seen any of it yet? 

I really wanted to tell the story of reconciling my relationship with my parents, and they’ve seen a little bit of material, though they have not seen the full hour yet. When I bring it to Houston and they are guests there, they’re definitely going to be upset by some of the things I share with thousands of people. But I want it to be good and close [the set] strong so by the end, they forget that they’re mad.

Was it difficult to open up so much of yourself to, as you said, thousands of strangers?

It would be a lot less stressful if I were just getting up on stage and telling 45 minutes' worth of jokes. I’ve done that before, and there wasn’t a narrative structure, though there was a structure; I [would] start with jokes about my life, then I segue into my parents, into my dating life, into college, and end on a career high or something.

This has been more difficult. Talking to some people who are known for doing narratives in their stand-up, I’m like, “Wow, you make it look way easier than it actually is.” It's difficult to look at the jokes you already have and attribute a narrative structure to it, then write more jokes that fit that structure. A unique obstacle that I found in writing for this is that a lot of the more intimate jokes require a premise and I’m not able to workshop when I’m just on the circuit in New York City where they give you seven to ten minutes.

People still think Abby Govinda wrote Emily in Paris. She didn't. SABRINA CARMONA

What drew you to the Pacific Northwest to kick off doing your show in its entirety? 

My friend Mohanad Elshieky was always singing the praises of the Portland scene. My sister lives in Seattle, and I was planning a visit to her at some point this summer. So I wanted to do Portland and Seattle; then I was like while I’m up there I might as well do Vancouver as well.

This is going to be the first leg of the tour; we’re still in the process of booking other venues, but these are audiences that I feel really confident bringing the show to, because Portland and Seattle have a really strong stand-up scene and Vancouver has a really strong South Asian scene. Just workshopping it with those different audiences, seeing how they react, and being vulnerable, is a way of learning about myself and the hour. 

I have to ask about the infamous Emily in Paris situation. Do people still come up to you and talk to you about that?

Yeah, I mean I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that they’re huge fans of Emily in Paris. There are swaths—maybe thousands, if not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands—of people that just saw that I claimed to be the creator of Emily in Paris though never figured it out that I was joking. Literally, just a couple of days ago, someone messaged me and was like “Hey I’m in Paris. I know you guys filmed the show here; do you have any recommendations?”

I was like: me being the creator of Emily in Paris aside, I love that you just think that you can just message the creator of a hit Netflix show for personal recommendations. No, but I try to be pretty tight-lipped about that, because I kind of want it to speak for itself. The stunt, on top of being hilarious, opened a lot of people’s eyes to mediocrity in television, the lack of diversity in television, and how skewed the pitching process is. One of the biggest, most meaningful responses I got to that was a lot of showrunners and writers reaching out to me being like, “I pitched this show; it was a great concept but it got shot down.” Meanwhile, some dude just walked in and was like, “Hey, let's do a show about a girl named Emily and, get this, she lives in Paris!” Then Netflix was like “Perfect, give it five seasons.” 

Back to you and this show: what do you hope people take away from it?

I hope that it changes peoples’ lives. I hope that it has an impact—specifically for children of immigrants and Indian children but maybe for anyone—about more closely observing your relationship with your parents. Maybe realizing that there is more work to be done in that relationship, and that parents are human too.

One of my favorite parts of the show is when I talk about how my parents confronted me in the group text because they were like, “You don’t compliment us enough.” My dad always sends workout pictures, and I never responded to them. I was kind of from afar being like, “Great job dad,” but I never said that to him. I realized that in my 25 years of life, I’ve asked romantic partners, I’ve asked friends, [and] I’ve asked co-workers even what their love language is to understand them better. Never once had I sat and thought about asking my own parents what their love language was. Things like that.

If even one mother-daughter sees the shows and is like, “Hey, we should ask each other what our love languages are to understand each other better,” then that will have made all of this worth it. 

Catch Abby Govindan live at the Curious Comedy Theater in Portland on July 21, Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle on July 29, and the Waterfront Theatre in Vancouver on July 30.