Off the plane, on to the stage

Emerging comedian Shehzad Ghias Sheikh marks his comeback with stand-up routine

Our Correspondent June 16, 2015
Ghias kept most of his jokes Karachi-centric, while sliding in a few tales about his time as a Pakistani in the Big Apple. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY


Shehzad Ghias didn’t seem jet-lagged as he took the stage for his comeback show Fresh Of the Plane at the Music Art Dance school. Ghias, who recently returned to the city from New York after two years, kept the audience engaged with his satire of Pakistan’s bizarre pop culture in a two-day act on June 13 and 14.

He opened by ridiculing the country’s local entertainment content for children by explaining why a show as popular as Sesame Street was unable to take off in Pakistan. “In America, you have cute characters, such as the Cookie Monster and Elmo, but in Pakistan, you have Uncle Sargam —  an old, bald man. Imagine having a ‘Hug me, Uncle Sargam’ toy like the ones they have for Elmo in the United States,” he quipped.

Ghias kept most of his jokes Karachi-centric, while sliding in a few tales about his time as a Pakistani in the Big Apple. Having spent most of his life in Karachi, he narrated a host of eccentric things he has viewed in the city. “Pakistan is so multicultural. For instance, at one roundabout, you have the Allah Wali chowrangi, which is modest and pious, and then two signals down, you have Touch Me chowrangi.”

The comedian frequently performed as part of the local comedy circuit before his departure to the US for pursuing Master of Fine Arts in Theatre. He couldn’t contain his excitement for returning to the local stage. “It was an honour to perform in New York but the love you get from Pakistanis is incomparable. I have a connection with Karachi and the people of this city and it will stay with me no matter what,” he said.

Having acquired a Master’s degree in a discipline as offbeat as theatre, Ghias quipped that there are no chances of him tying the knot anytime soon — a fact his mother wasn’t ready to believe. “As parents get older, shaadi is everything for them. The other day, I told my mom I was hungry and asked her what’s for dinner. She replied, ‘Beta, Hanif Rajput’s catering is brilliant’.”

Although the show was helmed by Ghias, it was the opening act by Hassaan Bin Shaheen that was a surprise package for many. Speaking to The Express Tribune, audience member Nohail Siddiqui said, “Honestly, coming in, I didn’t have any expectations from the show but I was pleasantly surprised by the end. I thought Hassaan’s set was brilliant, especially the bit about being a resident of Gulistan-e-Johar. Being a Johar resident, I could relate to most of those jokes.”

The comedian is set to embark upon a nationwide tour after Ramazan. Nabhan Karim, the organiser of the show, also shared his views about the act. “While living in Karachi, we are always bombarded with negative issues. I think it’s important to develop comedy culture in the city to provide an escape,” he noted. “We want to create an environment where comedians can consider comedy as a full-time career, while also providing people with an avenue for entertainment,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th,  2015.

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