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‘Don’t Worry, Be Pakistani’

By  Rafay Mahmood
January 25 2013




Establishing a loyal audience by performing stand-up comedy shows in English is not an easy task for a Pakistani comedian, which explains why it has taken Saad Haroon nearly a decade to become a recognised name when it comes to local comedians.

Following a spree of postponed shows due to unrest in the city, Haroon finally took the stage on Tuesday evening at the Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC) and left the crowd thoroughly entertained with his performance of Don’t WorryBe Pakistani.

With his regular comical expressions, Haroon walked on stage to face an empty front row; the organisers didn’t expect that they would be filled, so the show opened. But members of the audience explained why. “Nahin, nahin! Hum aagey nahin bethain ge. Voh bula lega to phir mazak uraye ga [No, no! We don’t want to sit in the front row, or he’s going to call us out and pick on us],” said a woman in her 30s to her partner, who was more than willing to sit in the front row. The crowd laughed, but a group of three friends then jumped between the first and third row for fear of Haroon’s improvised jokes, and eventually sat down far from the stage.

But despite everyone’s attemps to avoid falling victim to Haroon’s unwavering and relentless wit, he succeeded. He picked on a girl who said she looked after her father’s business with him; made fun of a young man who owns a restaurant in San Francisco and joked about the originality of the idea of owning a Pakistani restaurant there — stating how ‘original’ the idea was with dripping sarcasm.

With his new act, Haroon has taken a different swing at humour. His jokes might not have been as hilarious as his previous scripts, but they are still funny — much more colloquial and applicable to Pakistanis. He addressed Pakistani stereotypes in a different manner and highlighted issues faced by minorities in a humourous, yet socially relevant way.

Haroon’s fans should expect something different and more interesting from this performance. His humour has evolved from what was simply a ‘burger’ cracking jokes to a more socially applicable and refined Pakistani entertaining the crowd with issues they could actually relate to. What really allows this act to reach its zenith is Haroon’s skill to improvise — it is the cherry on top of a perfect hour of comedy.

While old Haroon fans may feel that he lacks his prior touch and finesse, they will agree with first-timers who say that this is an entertaining comedy act. “We have not laughed this much in a while. Saad Haroon is the man,” a member of the audience told The Express Tribune.

Stand-up comedy seldom receives support from sponsors when compared to other performances such as plays and musicals, such as the big billboards and hoardings outside theatre halls for Avanti and Cinder Jutt. However, this time was an exception. Numerous stalls and panaflexes were set up by the sponsors from the parking lot to the stage. Clearly, stand-up comedy is an underexplored and untapped area in Pakistan.

Haroon’s gig post New York is a good sign for performing artists and potential comedians who have gone into hibernation after showing us glimpses of their talent without many full-length shows. Attention and support should be given to this craft as names such as Danish Ali and Ali Gul Pir are the by-products of such ventures.

Don’t WorryBe Pakistani runs till February 5, with the exception of January 24, at PACC. Tickets are available for Rs900 at McDonalds outlets and Espresso.

Originally published by Tribune Pakistan

Creative: Kiran Shahid

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