When it comes to comic delivery, Saad Haroon is up there with the best of the lot. Haroon is responsible for launching Pakistan’s first improvisational comedy troupe, Blackfish, which took stage in 2002 and he has managed to keep audiences in fits to date. This week, The Express Tribune catches up with the man in the comic hat to find out his thoughts on a few key issues:
Describe Pakistan in three words. Have we become a live comedy?
I think Pakistan is more of a Shakespearean play. Which means mostly you don’t understand what’s going on. It has its comedic moments though.
Which Pakistani politician do you think would make a good stand-up comedian?
There is a whole comedy club out there. But I think Asif Ali Zardari can steal everyone else’s jokes.
Which Pakistani politician’s speech would you like to see interrupted by a heckler? What do you think his/her response would be like?
I would love it if Shahbaz Sharif would heckle Nawaz Sharif. I think Shahbaz Sharif will ask for a youth loan and Nawaz Sharif will say: “But you’re not the youth,” and Shahbaz Sharif will reply: “But I’m your younger brother.”
How do you see Bilawal Bhutto as a future leader?
I am optimistic. I see myself having coffee with him. But it’s scary, the thought that someone younger than me might be leader. So, when I see him as a future leader, I feel like I want to see his report card from school first. You know how you have to show your degrees as a politician first. So, if you are that young you should have to show your report cards. That’s only fair.
I feel at his age you do everything in life to get girls, so I wonder what’s going on in his head, maybe he thinks, “Oh, I’ll become Prime Minister of Pakistan and I’ll meet so many women.” Maybe Pakistan is his girl, but that’s a girl with a lot of baggage.
If the government of Pakistan could be described in one word what would it be?
What did you think about the recently held Karachi Literature Festival?
Getting people involved in literature and reading is a wonderful thing. The more people you get reading the more people you get writing, and we desperately need writers in the performing arts.
The crowd is fun. It’s like when you buy a book you might not read it, but you can put it on your shelf and everyone comes and says, “Look at how many books he has read. This guy must be smart, he must be literate and he reads.” It puts you into that category when you can put your book up on the Facebook shelf and be like, “Ah, I was at the KLF today.” We live in the age of checking-in so you can check-in there.
YouTube has been banned for over a year, what do you think about that?
Our politicians have the attention span of a YouTube video. How can they look ten years into the future and see how people lost out because of them? They have taken away learning. I think politicians have so much free time on their hands that they should sit in a room and personally go through every website, and watch YouTube videos to approve each video and website individually.
The chairmanship of the Pakistan Cricket Board keeps switching. Your thoughts?
I think they should be playing Leapfrog instead. They don’t understand cricket and how much it means to people. Or maybe the third umpire should watch the PCB instead of cricket matches. Maybe watching the recordings and slow-motion action will lead to a solution.
The paranoia that comes with living in Pakistan. Hiding phones and mistaking fireworks for bomb blasts, what do you think about this?
I think my butt has touched my phone more than my face. Karachi is a city full of Woody Allens where everyone is paranoid. I feel we look over our shoulders so often that we should install side-view mirrors there so we can keep looking without turning.
Everyone on Twitter thinks they are revolutionaries. Comment.
Everyone on the internet is an armchair activist. If they invented an unlike button for Pakistan, Facebook would explode or people’s fingers would break through the iPad screen and come out through the other side. That’s how intensely people on the internet think they’re helping.
Tell me how comedy started for you?
I was very bored. I was working in the textile business with my dad and I thought that I would end up as everyone expected me to, doing all the right things. One day I decided I don’t want to do that. People talk about taking the road less travelled, but they don’t understand that there are cars coming down that direction of that street as well. All one can do is just keep hoping not to get hit.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a comedian?
I don’t consider myself a comedian, I am a storyteller and I have been gradually working on things which aren’t based on comedy. But I would probably be a producer as I love stories being told.
Describe yourself in three words?
I like chocolate.
Your biggest inspiration?
I am inspired by music. Everything works together to make something out of nothing. It is also something I find harder to do and I am very inspired by things I can’t do.
Your most embarrassing moment?
I’ve had hundreds of embarrassing moments. But once in the middle of a show for no reason, I was performing and stopped and was like, “I’ll do the next joke.” I stood there for 10 minutes talking out loud, saying “I don’t want to do this joke, maybe the next, but not that one either.” But that was comedic in itself, the audience was wondering if that was part of the act. But there have been many other embarrassing moments with technical difficulties where jokes have failed and other things have gone wrong.
Your worst nightmare?
For a comedian the biggest nightmare is that when you just write a joke and it clicks, there is a little part of you saying, “Where is the next one?” You always have an intrinsic fear of whether you will be able to write one more joke. You think, “Did I just use up all my brilliance in that last joke?” But it never happens, you keep on going.
Sundar Waqar is a subeditor on The Express Tribune Magazine desk. She tweets @sundar_waqar
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 23rd, 2014.
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