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Meet Saad Haroon: The (Second) Funniest Person in the World

    Saad 4

    Unless you were living under a rock (read: not logging onto Facebook) last month, you would know that a Pakistani has been crowned the second funniest person in the world. Saad Haroon, originally from Karachi, stunned us all by creating headlines in the international press that we could actually celebrate as Pakistanis. And now, it’s time to celebrate the man behind the headlines. I began our interview by asking Saad how his parents let him pursue comedy as a serious career option. “In true Pakistani fashion, my parents kept trying to convince me not to join this industry,” shares Saad. “My parents kept telling me the media industry was full of drugs, alcohol and bad women. And I used to wisecrack back by saying are you trying to convince me to join the industry or stay out of it?”

    When Saad isn’t putting on a show, you realize that comedy is actually a very serious business for him and the burden of representing Pakistan is a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.  “It feels good to change the narrative,” says Saad, referring to how being a Pakistani comedian in the United States forces people to change their view of Pakistan. “But I try not to over think it. For me, being a comedian is a compulsion. It’s a drug. People enjoy my jokes but I enjoy them having a good time more.”

    To my surprise, Saad is actually a full time comedian. And he’s married. This flies in the face of every stereotype that we have of young Pakistanis arguing that they can’t pursue their dreams because they have a family to take care of. Saad’s story is powerful on its own but the idea that he represents is even more powerful. If a Pakistani comedian can make it big, what’s stopping the rest of us from achieving our dreams, beyond our usual list of excuses? “The highs are great,” says Saad. “But the lows are awful. I write shows on my own for months and I don’t have any colleagues so it’s a very lonely profession. In Ramazan, there are no shows, so you’re basically unemployed.  Once, I wrote and produced an English language comedy show for television but English language channels began shutting down before I could sell it so I thought I’d put it on Youtube and then Youtube got banned.”

    It hasn’t been an easy journey but Saad has persevered. He created Pakistan’s first improvisational comedy troupe, named Blackfish, which besides being a huge success in Pakistan, was also chosen to represent Pakistan in an international theatre project in Manchester, England. Saad was also the creator, host and writer for Pakistan’s first English language comedy show ‘The Real News.’ I ask him if he’s ever afraid of bombing in a show or in his comedy career. ”I have lots of nervous energy and blissful ignorance at the same time,” says Saad.”I try not to think too far ahead in the future. When people look ahead in their lives, they think about how they can work hard to make everything go right but the electricity will still go out at night because of load shedding. I try to not to think that far. I might fall from grace. I might bomb in my act. But I will pick up the pieces and move on.”

    So, how did Saad realize he wanted to become a comedian? “I definitely wasn’t the class clown,” he shares. “I always wanted to be a storyteller though. I did hate maths and I think my passion for storytelling allowed me to escape some of the traditional career paths I wanted to avoid because I dreaded maths that much. I introduced the idea to my parents in a very Pakistani way by not making a big deal. I just did comedy on the side. I thought real life would kick in eventually and I would be miserable like we all needed to be. But gradually, I began doing bigger things in comedy and even though my parents were very worried, they came around to support me.”

    Saad is overwhelmed by the support (and votes) he received from Pakistani fans in the run up to the World’s Funniest Person contest. “I want to thank my fans from the bottom of my heart,” he says. “I needed this but more importantly, Pakistan needed it.”

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    1 comment

    1. Jamila Qawi

      I would like to read transcripts of Saad Haroon’s comedy shows. Possible?