Older, wiser and slicker, ten years into his career, Saad Haroon has built a fanbase that is strong enough to ensure a packed hall and cheers, every time he steps on stage.
Grinning, sprightly and with a knack for improvising outrageously funny banter, Saad still looks like the young boy who had so many rollicks back during the Blackfish days. He once said that he’s looking forward to the time when his grey hair will begin to show. “I’ve always been a Steve Martin fan,” he had quipped.
He’s got the hilarity down pat à la Steve Martin, at least. And if there’s anything that betrays his age, it’s his absolute confidence on stage. Saad has long been a pro at stand-up comedy and he takes centre stage with growing ease.
He knows his audience and we mean that literally since Saad’s regular fans tend to throng his shows without fail. And why wouldn’t they? He has had oodles of experience; he has appeared on local television, done umpteen stand-up comic shows in Pakistan and abroad and, more recently, self-produced three shows in New York, where he now lives.
So, what makes a Saad Haroon show work? One could argue that since there is just a smattering of comics in Pakistan, Saad isn’t faced with too much competition.
But what makes Saad a roaring success is the fact that he’s genuinely witty and knows precisely when to pack in the punches. His jokes range from ridiculing shaadis and anecdotes on Eid to jibes on airports, the ongoing Dolphin Show in Karachi, rallies, growing up and what-have-you-not.
His jokes are tongue in cheek, diverse and refrain from slipping down the hackneyed road to lewd humour, a route that other local English-speaking comedians take up in a trice.
For instance, Akbar Chaudhry, an aspiring comedian who opened the show for Saad this time around, started off strong with some comical dating jokes, but lost the plot when he glided into risqué ones.
It’s far too easy to make bawdy, vulgar jokes, but in Pakistan, they usually don’t draw the biggest laughs. Saad’s brand of ribaldry tends to be less direct; it is a play of words and situational comedy that is extremely funny and always original.
It has made his current tour across Pakistan a successful one. The ‘Kat-a-kat’ comedy show, which is currently being staged in Karachi, traversed through Lahore and Islamabad (It was called ‘Tak-a-tak’ there since that’s what the meat dish is called in Punjab).
As the name implies, the show is a mix of some of Saad’s new work and quite a few of his old, most popular jokes. It’s still great fun, although for enthusiasts who have seen it all before, the jokes may not be as funny as they were the first time around.
That being said, we miss Saad’s earlier shows, when he would try his hand at different comic formats. 2012’s shows by his comic troupe The Agency come to mind, which was conducted along the lines of the popular American program, Whose Line Is It Anyway?
This time, Saad focused on just stand-up comedy; he cracks jokes, but a large chunk of the show is delegated to him grilling his audience. As much as we wish for a greater number of new, original jokes, we have to say that he is adept at poking fun at his audience; it has always been the highlight of his shows, in fact.
Are the ‘Kat-a-kat’ comedy shows worth a watch? They’re old wine in a new bottle to a large extent, but of course, they’re absolutely worth a watch. Did we laugh? We always do and so did the rest of the audience. That’s just Saad Haroon for you — he always delivers.
Maliha Rehman is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with an obsessive, compulsive need to write. Log on for more updates on Twitter@maliharehman
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2014.