He has been on television for only six months but Ali Gul Pir’s popular punch lines like “Allah Re” and “Saein toh saein, saein ka kutta bhi saein” have already become epic.
Although the young lad has been doing improvisations since the past three years, it is with the “Lipton Light on Hai” TV series that he has been able to cut through masses on broadcast. Prior to it, Pir, a film graduate, went around the theatre circuit before joining hands with stand-up comedian Saad Haroon, who is currently in the process of reviving his comedy troupe Blackfish this season. “I have made more money doing improvisations than making films,” says Pir candidly, adding that he learns more about comedy through improvisations.
“The most satisfying aspect of this job is to see the people enjoy clean humour,” beams Pir. However, unlike the recent, more civilised versions of stand-up comedians like Haroon and Sami Shah — who only manage to cut through the anglicised urban elite — Pir dexterously straddles both Urdu and English, with an interesting Sindhi undertone. “I’m one of those very rare breeds that can do both Urdu and English improvisations with ease. You have to understand the fact that humour in both languages is very different,” says Pir, whose acts with Haroon have required him to crack jokes in both languages simultaneously.
Recalling the tough time the troupe had in Lahore, entertaining audiences as diverse as those at Lahore University of Management Sciences and then at Forman Christians College, Pir says: “Improvisations play on the audiences’ intellect and if they don’t get your jokes or if you can’t get through to that level of intellect, your jokes fall flat.”
Pir believes that his brand of comedy works because he is what he calls a “Tony Marroo”. According to Pir, “Tony” is a step above what Karachiites contemptuously refer to as a ‘burger’, and a ‘Marroo’ is a ‘Sindhi dude’. Pir manages to effectively portray both these characters, courtesy a curious upbringing where he managed his lands in Dadu in interior Sindh, while also having the privilege to have studied in a private school in Toronto’s suburban Mississauga.
“In stand-up comedy, you have to bring your own identity and character into your humour unlike in acting where you have to be someone else. People often criticise our show ‘Lipton Light on Hai’ for being scripted, which is not true,” Pir clarifies. “It’s still improvisations but we just use 30 minutes of our best reactions.”
And for those who perennially criticise that the “masses” do not understand intelligent humour, Pir shares that most of his fans on social networking site Facebook are from the ‘not-so-posh’ areas of the city, hence dismissing the claim that people who don’t live in posh areas are dumb.
He narrates that even fishermen in Rani Kot have reportedly huddled around a small black-and-white screen to watch the show.
“People here are starved for entertainment. Everybody knows what the social issues are in this country. We experience them every day. But unless you’re solving them, what’s the point in speaking about them repeatedly?” says Pir matter-of-factly. “Either solve those issues or distract people,” he offers as a viable alternative.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.
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