Growing up, he'd been a fan of standup, but didn't picture himself doing it. "Back in middle school, I'd watch Comedy Central because there was always some sort of standup on. At the time it was predominately a standup comedy channel."
However, after graduating from Harvard, he took a position with a real estate consulting firm. "I didn't really think I was going to do anything comedy related," he explains. "I wasn't pursuing either writing or standup. But the work I was doing wasn't fulfilling, and I started going to open mics to see if it was something I could do."
On his third visit he took the stage in front of a tiny crowd. "I figured I might as well do the stuff I had been working on and had been planning to do eventually. The crowd was so small, you couldn't fail or succeed really. I just kept going up after that."
He entered the Boston Comedy Festival in 2013, and won that competition. He promptly split the prize money between his favorite charity and the other 95 comics who competed. The win gave him the confidence he needed to change careers, something that was not unfamiliar to his parents, who had emigrated from India before he was born.
"My dad, he came to this country having studied bio-chemistry, but he transitioned to tax consulting and financial planning." Mitra's folks own a tax and financial planning firm, and are very supportive of their son's standup comedy career.
"They are remarkably supportive, to the point where I question whether they are actually good parents," he says. "They shouldn't be as gung-ho as they are." He reasons that they recognized how dedicated he was to comedy. "I think coming from another country they see opportunities in America that don't exist in India. If you wanted to pursue something in the media there, you're pretty much not going to be able to unless it's a strange situation. I have the opportunity here, and they want me to take full advantage of it."
Now living in New York, Mitra hits the stage every chance he gets, several times a night if possible. It's that work ethic that has probably been most responsible for his relaxed and effortless stage presence. "I think there was some element of having a natural stage comfort, but also I try to get up as much as I can," he says. "I think when you go up a lot you get a lot more comfortable onstage."
For now, he'd like to concentrate on becoming a better standup comic, one who can fill theaters like a Brian Regan or Jim Gaffigan. He should succeed with his smart but accessible comedy. "I never want it to just be comedy for people I would be hanging out with otherwise."
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
708 North First St., Minneapolis
8 and 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday through Saturday
For tickets, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com