KARACHI: Comedy is the most underrated and one of the most challenging of art forms, whether it is in cinema, theatre or some other medium. Just like any kind of oration, standup comedy is difficult to perform as well. Imagine a room full of strangers expecting you to make them laugh. It’s petrifying for a comic or anyone, for that matter. With the growth of the standup comedy circuit in Karachi, we recently saw international comics perform and try to entertain the Karachi audience.
Pakistani comedian Umar Rana, along with his local partners Aamir Habib and Haris Qasim – brought his Singapore’s hottest weekly open mic show, Comedy Masala International, to Karachi for the first time, providing the stage to three American performers: Paul Ogata, Matt Davis and Dwayne Perkins.
The 90-minute show allotted each performer 30 minutes to tear the house down, and they did.
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Ogata went first and set the bar so high that, judging by the reaction, I perceived he was the main event. His over-the-top manners and racist jokes, often poking fun at his own expense, set the mood for the show and screamed in people’s eardrums that nothing was to be taken seriously. His funny anecdotes from Australia ended with on-stage description and imitation of some explicit imagery, that would be difficult, if not impossible, to get out of our minds anytime soon.
On the contrary, Davis’ conduct was more composed. He took his time with every line and went with the flow, often surprising the audience with a line or two, which only a few would understand. Although, it must be said that it didn’t diminish the power of his performance. In fact, it served as a contrast; a morning calm after Ogata’s storm, until his ridiculously hysterical story about pandas in China left the audience roaring and making noise like a mob during flood… only happier.
Self-deprecating humour has been done to death, but when done right and in different contexts, it has its own charm. It often works in breaking boundaries and standup comics are surely aware of it. What Perkins did in the main event wasn't exactly self-deprecating humour, but rather self-aware humour. His performance chronicled his experiences around the world juxtaposed with his Brooklyn, New York roots, bringing an honest glimpse of the person behind the comedian.
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Comedy Masala International’s Pakistan launch served as a reminder of two things; one, that hysterical laughter is necessary…only sometimes, though, unless you want to end up like Chrysippus, an ancient Greek philosopher who died of laughter. Secondly, it reminded me of how long a way our local comedians have to go. It’s not at all a knock at them. But it takes years and years to find your unique voice as a performer. While many others are undergoing that process, comedians such as Saad Haroon and Akbar Chaudhary among a few others are already there.
The show was also interesting as perhaps, for the local audience, it showed how Urdu-language comedy differs from the English-language comedy format in all its nuances and approach. Further, it showed how local comedians are afraid to take risks and are concerned about not offending the audience. Besides at the Dirty Comedy shows, they are afraid to let go. The art lies in subtly and intelligently triggering the audience’s imaginations and surprising them.
Hopefully, as more international comedians visit and perform in Pakistan in the future, it would also give an opportunity to local comics to exchange knowledge and ideas and help refine their art, as the local comic circuit grows to the next level. For now, Comedy Masala International makes its debut with a bang!
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