Social media stars comedian Shafaat Ali and YouTuber Umer Khan (AKA Ukhano) recently made an appearance on Time Out with Ahsan Khan to shed light on their career trajectories, as well as their thoughts on the pros and cons of social media.
Shafaat made his mark on the Pakistani comedy scene with his impressions of famous Pakistanis, most of whom are politicians. Most notably, he is known for his outrageous imitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s voice.
Shedding light on his journey into the world of comedy, Shafaat shared that he had spent 12 years in the media industry working various jobs on and off camera before he made his way to impersonations. “I had been working in the industry for 12 years writing scripts, live reporting. But I couldn’t figure out where I fit, and no one was willing to give me the screen because I wasn’t recognisable. Also, I wasn’t too smart at the time. I decided that I was done with the media and left it in September 2016. I figured I couldn’t make money off of it so I should get into motivational speaking or something else.”
Reflecting on his first-ever viral video, he elaborated further, “I ended up getting a gig with the Punjab police, where I had to conduct a few workshops. I felt that adding comedy to it would allow it to have a greater impact. I went on to moderate a session for a school, and part of the panel were Sheema Kermani, Mohsin Hamid and Tina Sani. Tina apa came to me later and asked me to record a message for her nephew’s birthday, so I did it while impersonating Bilawal and Shehbaz Sharif. Eight hours later, that video was everywhere.”
On how mimicry has landed him in some odd situations, Shafaat shared, “Back in the day, I was a very staunch supporter of Tehreek-e-Insaaf. At the time of elections, people would come to me saying they’ve told people that Khan sahab will be giving a speech. So I’d pretend to be him on call. I helped many friends this way, who are still my friends.”
Explaining the origins of his screen name, Ukhano revealed, “I used to play basketball in school, and the name on my jersey was Khan, and my number was zero. So people ended up calling me Khano. So, when I was making my email ID, Khano was taken, and I ended up adding a U before it, turning it into Ukhano.”
On his first viral video, Ukhano shared the story of his collaboration with Mooroo, who he considers his “ustaad”. The vlogger said, “When I started YouTube, travelling was difficult for me because of budget constraints and issues of access to northern areas at the time, which was around 2016-2017. My friend Mooroo, who I also consider my guru, took me to Skardu with him. That entire trip, I did it on a skateboard. Towards the end of that vlog, I ended up falling off the skateboard. So that went quite viral.”
When the conversation steered towards social media, and the constant contemplation of imposing a ban on various platforms such as TikTok by the government, Shafaat shared that a ban is not the right way to deal with the issues at hand. The comedian, speaking about the importance of education, explained, “Social media is a reflection of society. You live under the illusion that your society is very beautiful, which is true at times, but when you go on social media you find out what the game truly is. I agree that there are some things on social media that shouldn’t be there, but banning it is not the solution. The content on social media is just a reflection of what’s actually happening in society. If you’re concerned about what you see, invest in education and in your people.”
In a similar vein, Ukhano emphasised the good and bad of the medium, and how regulation of content is key to a healthy social media experience. “Social media is a double-edged sword,” shared the vlogger. “It can be used to start wars and end them. It has its pros and cons. Banning it is never an option. You can regulate it.”
On the question of what content the audience likes to see the most, Ukhano explained that there are two sides to YouTube. “There are two extremes. The first is where there is a lot of shock value. For example, you give a clickbait-y headline and thumbnail about someone getting run over by a car or shot. The video ends up having nothing that the headline claims. The other extreme is when people show extreme good. If I take a picture in front of Nanga Parbat base camp or K2 base camp, it’ll get a lot more likes. Mediocre content doesn’t get you anywhere on YouTube,” he elaborated.
Speaking of audience expectations, the vlogger added further that he had built a community on positivity. He shared, “Clickbait works for some people, but positivity works for me since that’s what my content has always been about. People expect that from me, so I don’t need the gimmick. But the hard work is ten times more than the ‘shock value’. You’ll end up making money off of shock value, but you’ll lose your inner peace and respect.”
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