06 Sep 2017 - 8:31
Nepal comedian takes on Donald Trump
Kathmandu: Nepali comedian Manoj Gajurel received threats for impersonating the king when the small Himalayan country was still ruled by a Hindu monarchy. Today he is taking aim at another powerful figure, US President Donald Trump.
Dressed in Trump's trademark blue suit and red tie and topped with a blond wig, Gajurel struts on stage where his Trump clashes with a prominent Nepali journalist known for asking outlandish questions.
"This is the fake media," Gajurel shouts in an American drawl that still has a hint of his native Nepali, to applause and laughter from the audience.
Washington may be a long way away, but the bombastic real estate mogul turned politician still resonates with audiences in the small Himalayan nation.
"World politics is now very narrow. If something happens in America, in Nepal it is also connected. That's why I chose Donald Trump," Gajurel said in his cramped dressing room after the show.
Gajurel has been studying Trump's mannerisms for over two years, watching YouTube videos to perfect his swagger and voice.
But in order to truly embody Trump, Gajurel had to change his teeth.
"You can see my teeth are not very beautiful, but Trump's teeth are very good. To be Donald Trump I had to make very beautiful teeth," he said, pulling a wide grin to show off a pair of pearly white dentures.
Shortly after Nepal's King Gyanendra seized absolute power in 2006 at the height of the country's civil war, dismissing the government, Gajurel took aim at the monarch.
Under Gyanendra's short-lived rule, political dissent was severely punished and censorship was rife, leaving satirists to fill the void.
No news was allowed on television or the radio, only music, which led one radio station to come up with a humorous workaround -- it sang all news broadcasts to the tunes of popular folk music.
Gajurel received threats over the phone and from supporters of the monarchy who would come up to him after his shows. He took to travelling with at least one friend for protection.
"I enjoyed the threats because if someone threatens me, it means I am on the right track," Gajurel said.
The environment is more open in Nepal today and each year Gajurel takes aim at a different political figure.
Two years ago Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the target of his jokes, at a time when Nepal's relations with its bigger neighbours had reached a nadir.
After the show, Gajurel had some advice for the US president: should he ever find himself out of a job, he could set himself up as a one man act.
"He is not a professional comedian but he has a sense of humour about him," Gajurel said with a wink.