Despite the popularity of international stand-up comedian Russell Peters and the daily show host Jon Stewart amongst Pakistani audience, stand-up comedy, especially in English, remains a relatively new concept.
Almost a decade ago, Saad Haroon started this trend and later added the talented doctor-turned-comedian Danish Ali to his line-up. Before we knew it, the audience’s fascination with the comedic side of the young man, studying to be a doctor, grew so rapidly that today he is a well-known name in the stand-up genre. Recently, he launched his solo career with his stand-up show “Danish Ali Live” at the Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC) on December 24. The Express Tribune tried to explore the reasons behind his apparent split with Saad Haroon, his current line of shows and his future plans.
“I wish we had a huge public blow-up like the band Jal and were aggressively fighting over ‘Aadat’, or I had done something as drastic as stabbing Saad in the gut! Unfortunately, both of us are still very good friends and he actually wants my show to go well,” says Ali. Going solo for Ali was no abrupt decision and had a lot of thinking and planning behind it. After regularly performing at different cafes and gatherings for a while, Ali has created enough of a loyal following to launch his own solo career.
Besides stand-up, Ali’s stage performances also feature some humorous short films. For instance, “Jawad: The Misunderstood Orphan”, was centred on protagonist Jawad who is suddenly stopped one day by a policeman on the road. When asked to show his license, Jawad answers, “Do you know who my father is?” The film ridicules the elite youth of Pakistan who often use their family connections to get out of a sticky situation. Interestingly enough, the boy is actually an orphan who is looking for his father but still manages to leave the policeman anxious and fearing for his job.
At the same time, Ali is also planning to launch a television show which would have a different concept than his former show “Real News” on Play TV. “The show ‘Real News’ was definitely inspired by Jon Stewart and ‘Saturday Night Live’ but this time around the play would be quite different and will incorporate a lot of videos,” he informs.
To assist him with his sketches and short films, Ali has a university student on board who is also the producer for his stage shows. “I was praying that I get a producer/actor/writer/editor and I found all those things in Bassam,” Ali says about the producer of his show, Bassam Shazli. Shazli, a film-making student has acted in a number of university productions, and turned out to be Ali’s neighbour.
“I was excited when I found out that the guy on ‘Real News’ lived right next to my house. Some of my friends got together and we went over to his house and discussed the way forward,” Shazli says about the start of their partnership.
However, the first meeting wasn’t impressive for Ali at all. “They were a group of busy students with their final exams pending. Surprisingly, it worked out pretty well with Bassam.” Although Ali’s first show at the PACC was a hit, he is much more excited about his TV show. “I’m looking forward to seeing new faces in the crowd. However, my focus remains on the soon-to-be aired TV show. I can’t say exactly when it will be aired but fingers are crossed for now.”
With a stand-up show and a television show in the works, Ali’s next career move is going international. “My aim is to do stand-up comedy on an international level and achieve recognition as a Pakistani comedian.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2011.