When Rajiv Satyal told his parents he wanted to be a comedian, he says “they freaked out.” But by day two, they’d come around to the idea. “My dad said, ‘Now that you’re doing this, go get on Jay Leno’s show.'”
The Fairfield, Ohio native graduated from the University of Cincinnati and worked in marketing before pursuing comedy full-time in 2006. He’s since toured with some of the biggest names in comedy, honing his unique autobiographical, interactive act in the process.
The Indian SCENE talked to Satyal to discuss his personal style and inspiration. The interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
The Indian SCENE: What words would you use to best describe your style?
Rajiv Satyal: Sharp.
IS: What do you want your style to say about you and who you are?
RS: Fun yet sophisticated; upscale yet accessible.
IS: How has your style evolved with age?
RS: All the way through my 20s, I evolved with the times. In my late 20s, I read an article in GQ about man’s guide to style, in which the editors admitted they grappled with which one to place as the single most important element of style: quality or fit. Fit barely won. Moreover, it’s said that as you age, you come into your own style. Don’t follow trends; figure out what looks good on you and rock that. In fact, the idea popularized by Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg is to wear literally the same thing everyday or every few days, which helps keep your energy focused on bigger decisions. How you dress is of course a big decision but it’s one that you can make one time and then wash, rinse, and repeat. The “Rajiv Uniform” is generally a collared shirt, thin tie, jacket (sometimes a sports jacket but usually some other kind of outerwear), jeans, fun socks, and designer sneakers.
IS: When you look in the mirror, what or who do you see?
RS: I generally like the way I look. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve stayed thin even past the age of 40. Some of that is genetics but some of it is hard work — I stay active and don’t eat as much ice cream as I’d like to (which, if there were no consequences, would be two scoops every few hours). I’m happy with my face, though the first thing I tend to notice is how I’ve aged over the years. That said, I still appear relatively young. And while I wouldn’t consider myself particularly good-looking, I do look good with good-looking women. (Google me… including, above all, the ones of me with my wife.)
IS: What’s your favorite piece from your closet?
RS: Shoes. I allow myself a splurge every now and then, whether that’s my Jordan 11s or Jimmy Choos. But these days, I’ve been rocking this pair of blue Finsbury shoes my wife and I happened to see whilst walking down a street in Paris.
IS: What is the one thing you never leave home without?
RS: When I get on a plane, I never leave home without my Second Sunday hoodie that I bought on Melrose here in L.A. It’s super warm and is so voluminous that it just engulfs me. I pull the hood over my head and it’s like I’m in my own world. Maybe not the best look for a brown guy on a plane, but hey. It’s insane because it’s black and the hood literally goes all the way down to my chest so I look like Palpatine from Star Wars, but hey, function over fashion sometimes. (And Palpatine does have some style.)
IS: Who is your style icon — Hollywood and Bollywood — and why?
RS: Stanley Tucci and Ayushmann Khurrana. A lot of people say I remind them of Tucci. I can see it but it’s a super high compliment as I think he’s quite handsome.
IS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
RS: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, it’s clichéd, but to me, this quote sums up life.
IS: Who inspires you and why?
RS: My mom is the only person I know who for sure is a better person than I; I don’t know how close Mom is to breaking the cycle of rebirth and attaining Nirvana but I cannot imagine a person better… Lalita Satyal is just operating on a different plane from most of us.
IS: What do you enjoy doing with your wife?
RS: The most important thing two people can do together is laugh. My wife and I laugh together many times a day. OK, sometimes she’s laughing at me and not with me, but I’m a comedian — a laugh’s a laugh.