Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hydralin-Flavoured Burps...

Pointy metal spikes have lined the insides of my throat, my lungs feel like they are filled with the tar of a thousand smokers and I can taste cough-syrup everytime I burp. None of which is helped by the fact that I am at work trying to make Knorr Pulao Cubes look appetizing.

Used the last of my strength/voice at the Open-mic last night. Spent the entire time before the show started gargling with salt-water and chugging coffee. I refused to make conversation with anyone and every ten or fifteen minutes would hide in a corner and mumble "hello hello testing one two three" to myself to make sure I still have a voice.

The show was fantastic by the way. Saad really is a genius when it comes to organizing things. No one has that boys sense of committment. Caffeine, a rarely-visited coffee shop that at the best of times looks garish, turned out to be the perfect venue. No parking problems. Enough room for the audience of 80 or so people to sit comfortable and everyone had a view of the performance space.

The show started at around 8:20. Saad opened with some hilarious bits. They were his less experimental, more guaranteed-laugh bits, but worked great. Around 6 minutes of thematic material, all of which killed. The audience loved him. Bastard. I really hope he just does his solo-show soon. Really looking forward to it. Plus it is a pleasure talking to him, the only other person who is involved with the technical appreciation/understanding of Stand-up. We always end up swapping pointers and discussing technique. Stand-up is mostly a lonely craft. Not like Improv. You write your material alone and until you perform it the only knowledge you have that it is funny is what your instincts tell you. Which is fucking frightening if you think about it.

Anyway, after Saad there were some poets and musicians. Mikail (Saad's friend) read a lovely poem for his fiancee and the musicians were really damned talented. Great performances. David of ARTSAYPUNK did a ten minute bit about being a foreigner in Pakistan which I thought was fantastic. I found him through his blog a few days back and got him in touch with Saad. Glad saad convinced him to give it a try.

I was one of the last acts up, which had me extremely nervous about the condition of my voice. Got up to the mike after a touching into by Saad and as far as I could tell my voice sounded like two strips of sandpaper being rubbed together. Apparently the audience could understand me fine but I really wasn't sure throughout. That coupled with a sudden urge to cough violently the moment I stood up had me a tad panicky. I ended up doing three bits. Opened with the "G.T." stuff, which didn't do as well as I thought it would and then did two new bits about cell-phones on airplanes and cops. They killed. People laughed at all the right times, got all the jokes and even the stuff I wasn't sure about did great. It felt fantastic.

One problem though: I raced through the material. I mean really spat it out too fast. Even I realized half-way through I should be slowing down a bit but I just couldn't. My mind stops and my mouth takes over. Three, four words a second. Material that was supposed to last 7 minutes was done with in 3. That is extremely problematic. I thought I had enough material for 40 minutes ready. And if I speak normally it would work like that. But the fact of the matter is I talk fast. Very fast. And chances are it won't change on the November 13th show. I like talking fast, it is my style of delivery and it works for alot of the material. But that mean that what I thought was 40 minutes of stuff is barely 20 minutes. I need twice as much material in the next one month. Time to stop procrastinating and writing out and editing and timing all the new material I have been meaning to get around to.

The Open-mic was a success though. Hats off to Saad. The audience loved it and I think it would be a great monthly feature. I doubt he will have trouble finding more performers.

If you want to get involved; do some stand-up, read something or even act a mime...anything, contact Saad at sadharpoon@hotmail.com

My throat gave out the moment I finished my bit. It just collapsed and I've been whispering since. Time to rest.

Time to write.

Monday, September 26, 2005

OPEN-MIC...*hak* *cough*...

Tonight is Saad's first OPEN-MIC show!

WHEN: 26th September, 8:00 p.m.

Last I heard he was sold-out so if you don't have tickets then...well too bad I guess.

I'm pretty psyched because I am doing 5 to 7 minutes of Stand-up in a non-Black Fish environment.
One tiny problem though - I have laryngitis.

No voice whatsoever.

Yesterday night I hosted Black Fish and it was pretty bad before the show. After one hour of hosting and yelling and all that it is goooone. I am talking in a barely audible whisper. It's a deep husky whisper which is kind of sexy but not much use for Stand-up. Hoping to be able to drink lots of tea and honey-milk concoctions before the show.

Not sure what to perform yet. Definetely doing the "G.T." bit because it's always been a hit (by "always" I am referring to the one time I have done it). It's strong and would do great with the audience that is coming. Not sure what else though. "G.T." is a small bit, barely two to three minutes. So that leave around 5 minutes of other stuff, and I need to try the new longer bits I've written. So trying to decide. Either the one about Pakistani Cops, Chivalry or some older stuff.

Lets see...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The date is set: 13th November (Sunday) is the official date for my Stand-up performance. That gies me enough time to get the posters and tickets printed up and start spreading the word.

So...should I call the show "BRING THE FUNNY" or not?

Meanwhile, Black Fish is having its last show before Ramadan this Sunday (the 25th) and Saad's Open-Mic is on Monday (the 26th) at Caffeine.

Tickets for Black Fish at Agha's and the gate, tickets for Saad's Open Mic...not sure. Contact Saad at sadharpoon@hotmail.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Chivalry of the crotch...

At work right now, trying to figure out how to make a can of Rafhan Corn Oil look pretty and thankfully my mind wonders towards new Stand-up material. This is raw as can be, no editing, just noting this stuff down as it comes to me, so it might not actually be funny:


Chivalry is dead. I don't know how Pakistani women put up with the men, we have no sense of chivalry. No more opening doors and holding your chair and all that. The closest a Pakistani man comes to chivalry these days is not adjusting himself when a woman is present. That is it. You might be right at it, hand buried deep in your pocket, trying to get the angle just so...a woman passes by and you stop. try to pull it like you always stand like that, one hand buried elbow deep in your pockets. That is the extent of chivalry. And if you are wearing a Shalwaar Kameez then you don't even bother with that. Shalwaar Kameez makes the whole discretion-while-adjusting thing too damned difficult. It just isn't a user friendly article of clothing. The pocket is way up on one side. Your hand stops at the hip. Trying desperately to make an adjustment, and the only way of doing it is the long way around. Your underwear is pinching and all of a sudden you look like the sabzi-wala taking out his wallet. They hide their money all the way down there, nestled between the rainbow-coloured naara and their nether regions. It's a great way of making extra money. Hand him a 500 buck note and all of a sudden he is producing change from his crotch like some perverts David Blaine.
*back away quickly* "Keep the change, keep the change!"
Your bill had only come to Rs. 23.

That's the problem with our culture. So much damned hypocrisy. We get angry if a women shows her arms and yet the male Shalwaar kameez is a revealing piece of clothing. Sure it covers you from neck to ankle. But when the wind blows against you, all of a sudden the whole world can see the craftsmanship on your circumsition (sp?). It goes from national-dress to a kinky piece of male lingerie. Waqar's Secret...for the sexy fundamentalist.


*Phew* That's actually not bad. I had just thought of the chivalry gag when I started writing this and it's turned out a lot meatier than I had realized. And I worked in a but about the Shalwaar kameez that I've been trying to find a place for.

Now to edit it for tempo and timing and such.

Now back to the Corn Oil....

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I just got back from the Stand-up show that I mentioned earlier.


Stand-up is not about just getting up on stage and cursing a whole lot! It is not about just telling one-line jokes, humorous anecdotes and staring at cue-cards in the wings! Stand-up is supposed to be *&%%^$&%$& FUNNY!

A better summary goes like this:

The opening act was this guy Faraz Lodhi. He actually had some funny material. Some genuinely good bits and he managed his transitions well too. He did, however, keep mumbling between jokes and instead of memorizing his bits, or even writing his material down on paper and keeping it on stage with him, he relied on cue-cards being held up in the wings. Good jokes and timing ruined by long pauses that were punctuated by non-stop cursing. It lacked the kind of casual smoothness that makes good stand-up work. But there were some decent jokes and they were well told.

It went downhill from there.

The next guy mumbled some bad one-liners incoherently. Haven't seen an audience energy die so quickly. The guy after that just kept cursing and telling badly structured stories. After him was a friend who actually had one good joke about CNN and censorship and wrecked it with poor delivery. The rest of his material was abysmal and the last guy up seemed confused about which country he was in. Word of advice: Don't take material about American Highschools and apply it to I.B.A. It wasn't even material he had ripped off from an American comedian, it was just bad stuff. We all walked out around then. Couldn't take it anymore.

My advice remains, being funny doesn't mean you are a good comedian. Stand-up is a craft and skill that requires practice and relies on certain tools to succeed. Some can break those rules, but that only works once you have learnt them. To just be this ignorant about rules and structures is embarrasing.


Am worried about the repercussions this will have on my November show. What if word-of-mouth ruins the expectations and interest people have in Stand-up shows. Maybe its good I have a month between this show and my own. Feeling alot more confident about it, 'll be honest. The audiences here are interested and want to laugh. You just have to give them a good reason to.

Another problem is that P.A.C.C. is increasing its booking costs from November. Not Rs. 8000 anymore, but Rs. 12,000! I don't have that kind of money. Really need to save up now.

Saad and I have one chance to redeem Stand-up; on the 26th is Saad's open-mic where I am doing 5 minutes of material. Have to choose what to do carefully. Alot rides on this show.

Damn Crackdown.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I know I know...

It's been a while since I posted anything. The current day-job workload is overwhelmingly painful. Couple that with Black Fish stuff and you only scratch the surface of my daily routine.

Some News:

- Saad's Open-Mic night happening for sure. I'll do around 5 minutes of Stand-Up and I just need to figure out which bits to use. Maybe one new and one old. It is on the 26th of September, which is pretty much all I know for sure.

- That came-out-of-nowhere Stand-up show that I mentioned below is on the 18th for sure. Got my tickets. Saad and I are both going to attend, strictly research and fact-finding mission. I hope they do a good job, nothing would improve the entertainment scene here like a series of good Stand-up shows.


Haven't written anything new in a few days, but yesterday my driver rammed my small car into a taxi, thus rendering it smaller still. The taxi was parked at the time, and he hit it from behind, so it was kind of amusing to see him trying to explain to me how it was the other guys fault. Been rear-ended often enough myself so am sure there might be some material in there.

Also been considering doing the obligatory "Women are confusing" stuff that almost every comedian has. Problem is, there is so much material already done on the topic that there is little space for originality left. Plus, really, how funny are those segments anyway?

To keep you entertained, and make up for the lack of posts, here is an older bit that I wrote and performed to great success on the 14th August Black Fish show only to later realize that the piece can only be used once a year and so is useless to me now. I still love how it came out though:

I used to love 14th August as a kid. Used to get up bright and early every morning to watch the army parade on PTV. This was back when the only entertainment we had was 4 and a half minutes of Heckle and Jeckle every evening just before the Sindhi news, so an hour of people in Khaki and camouflage marching was a biiiig deal. They used to have everything. Honking big missiles and tanks of all kinds and everything. I still believe there were Intelligence agents across the border in India who had their t.v. antennas trained in our direction and were just cataloguing as fast as they could.
“Air-to air missiles, two. F-16’s 4.”
Every time the ads would come on it would mess them up..
“Three commando units. 12 paratrooper units. One bottle of Rooh Afza.”
14th August is all commercial now. It’s like this great big marketing opportunity. They have ruined it. Everyone has manipulated it for their own benefit. It’s upsetting. But what is worse is they all use the same sort of lines.
“Enjoy the taste of freedom with Knorr.”
“Enjoy the speed of freedom with Toyota”
It’s going to just get excessive at this rate.
“Enjoy the cholesterol of freedom with McDonalds.”
“Enjoy the odor of freedom with Sure deodorant.”
They’ll have a pic of Jinnah waving with that stupid tick over his underarm.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

So why do this?

It's a valid question. After all, one of my big problems with Stand-up is that everyone I meet claims they either know someone funny or are funny themselves and so can do it. And that is pretty much how I got thinking about doing Stand-up; people tell me I'm funny, I think I can provide a funny perspective on things and there is, within me, that arrogance and over-confidence that convinces me that I can pull it off. What if, despite my claims of studying the art and form I am simply deluding myself and the solo show will be a disaster?

Why do it?

Because I love Stand-up. Always have. It's that simple. I watched and studied it in college, I have been obsessed with it since I got back to Karachi, even Black Fish, for all the fun it allows me, doesn't match the sheer thrill of getting a good laugh from the audience when delivering a monologue. Maybe I've been lucky so far and I will fall on my ass and make a fool out of myself. Maybe not. I'd rather try and fail than not try at all. There aren't many risks in life that I can consider with that attitude, and the fact that Stand-up inspires such bold and irrational passion in me makes it worth trying.

Still scared shitless though.


Meanwhile, a light storm in Karachi leaves the city drenched and drowning. Katrina victims are probably sneering at us. Tomorrow the paper will read: RAIN LASHES CITY. 14 DEAD.
Everytime the weather changes here people die. Rain: 14 dead. Heat wave: 32 dead. Drizzle: 4 dead. It's gotten so that one day the paper will read: PERFECT WEATHER: HALF THE CITY GONE!

Okay, so that one might just never make it into the routine.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tiiiime is on my side...yes it is!

The biggest problem I'm encountering with writing right now is finding the time. Between the day-job, Black Fish, married life and other day-to-day stuff I am really struggling for time. I come up with material and then can't get around to transcribing/editing it until two to three days later. Throw an brand new Xbox into the mix and you can start to see how problematic this can be.

*sigh* If only I could do this full-time. I envy New York based comedians with their hundreds of performance spaces and chances to get represented and make a career out of stand-up.

Heard something interesting today, apparently some guys are doing a Stand-up show at the P.A.C.C. on the 18th. Will definetely go to check this out. Kinda got mixed feelings about it though. On one hand I'm glad more people are attempting it and getting it known and creating an audience base for it. On the other hand I was really keen on being the first. Everyone in Pakistan is eager to label anyone a copycat and the last thing I want it to seem like is that I got the idea from them. Especially since I was considering P.A.C.C. as well.

Hmmm...lets see how it pans out.

Looking at the second week of November, as soon as Eid ends. Need to figure out how to market it and whatnot. I hate dealing with logistics.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Prolific to the max...

Yesterday was a good day, writing-wise. I have one every few days and yesterdays was the best in a while. Had been thinking of how to flesh out some topics and started considering the whole "Pakistani's Who Travel" bit on my drive home from work. Given that I get stuck in Shahra-E-Faisal traffic for close to 40 minutes on my drive back daily, that gave me alot of time. By the time I pulled into my garage, fifteen minutes of new material had composed itself in my head. And alot of it is very very strong stuff. Rushed inside, kissed the wife and then much to her chagrin sat down and started transcribing right away. I just couldn't risk forgetting anything. Half-an-hour later I had the language and cadence and everything worked out.

Saad Haroon, the guy who founded Black Fish and is working on Stand-up of his own, is starting an Open-Mic night in Karachi. Will post details when they become available. Will probably try out some of the new stuff there.


In other news: A friend who works in T.V. has offered to record my show when it happens (looking at mid-November) and put it on air. Not sure though.

Yesterday I was hit by my first, and definetely not last, bout of panic. Was reading some articles by NY-based comedians and realized that all comics bomb every now and then. Even the best in the business, Seinfeld, Chris Rock, etc. had some bad shows. Shows when the audience isn't receptive or you screw up your timing or worse...forget the material. I've been lucky in that the two or three small bits I've done to open Black Fish shows with have done really well. But not sure how much of that is due to the energy and support audiences give Black Fish. It would be quite awful if my first solo show is the one on which my luck changes.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Agent Munawar

Yesterday we had a family get together (G.T.?) at my house. All the old aunties and uncles came out for it, dressed in the their Sunday Best. It wasn't long before everyone had organized themselves into the self-segregated groups. Women one side, men on the other. Each group reaffirming conversational stereotypes. Women gossiping and men about politics. No self-awareness whatsoever. I was, ofcourse, sitting with the uncles and thoroughly enjoyed the political commentary. Old uncles, really old ones, always reveal themselves to be these frightening extremist fundamentalists in these settings. Everything bad that happens to the West is "Allah's Judgement" and they are almost gleeful about any high body counts in a disaster. But the most disturbing are the conspiracy theories. Just all kinds of bizarre stuff.

"The C.I.A. had made a projected World map for the year 2010. Pakistan isn't on it."
"America is already in the second phase of its plan to launch an all out attack on Iran. Then we are next."
"The Jews are planning on bombing Mecca and America is helping them with all kinds of ground-attack plans."
And so on...

The thing I started wondering is where are they getting this information from. If any of it is true then the C.I.A. really needs to work on its secrecy. If my Uncle Munawar* is getting top secret info from his daily diet of Nawa-E-Waqt and Geo News then they really must re-think there policies. Are there meetings in the basement of the White House, with the President of America and his Joint Chiefs of Staff, all strategising:
Condoleeza Rice is there, turning to President Bush and saying, "That is our attack plan Sir, if this goes through the Islamic world can be wiped out by dawn."
Bush mulls over the detailed world map lying on the table in front of him. All kinds of attack strategies highlighted and drawn out for him.
"Sir...what do you think? Should we begin?"
"Just a moment, I need to be sure," says Bush turning to his left and looking at his most trusted advisor, "Uncle Munawar, what do you think?"


Okay so that one might be funnier in my head.

*Name has been changed for sake of privacy and in case any of my cousins discover this blog.


I found them! I found the notes! 20 minutes of material recovered. The damned paper was with me all this time, just got tucked away in a corner of my knapsack. Am paranoid about losing it again so am quickly transcribing it here. This is exactly the text I have written on it, will explain below the red text:

-Men dancing together
-Couples breaking up
-Stoned Karachiites

-Staring in the departure lounge
-Cellphones on plane
-Airhostesses who don't give a shit anymore

-Awkward clothing
-Wind blows

So this are, ofcourse, just raw notes broken down according to Subject and related material.
I don't have the jokes for these worked out yet, infact they are quite far from actual usable material. But that is the (relatively) easy part. The tough part is thinking of topics and subjects. Now that that is out of the way I can start free-associating. It's a trick I learned in improv. You take a word and just start listing all the possible associations you can come up with. Once that is done you have a whole bunch of possible approaches and linkages to the main topic. Very very useful. Then you start using that info to attack the topic from a whole bunch of angles. Sometimes that means more free-association, this time with the words from the list you just made. If you are lucky, and your brain is working in the way you want it to, at the end of it all you will have a punch-line. Then all you have to do is come up with a structure for the joke. How to lead-up to the punch-line.

I like to pay attention to the rhyme and rhythm of the sentence as well. I saw a comedian on T.V. the other day who had some funny stuff, it was just delivered badly. Poorly constructed sentences and no cadence to his delivery. This isn't that different from any other kind of public oration, in that, it's about more than just talking aloud. How you say something is as important as what you say.

Friday, September 02, 2005


I think I lost some material. I came up with a good twenty minutes worth of stuff at work a few days back, jotted it down on paper (this was prior to setting up the blog) and then took the paper home in my wallet. And now I can't find it anywhere. Can't even rmember the subject matter at all. Damn damn damn!

Did think of one about stoned people today. Just had a visual of them at traffic lights sitting there for over an hour and saying "Another colour!"

Need to think it through a bit more but somethng there could work. Infact a whole bit on stoned Karachiites could be fun.


Been thinking that this blog would be more fun if it weren't just about my jokes. On re-reading portions of it I realized describing and analyzing them is kind of killing them. Reminded me of Dead Frog's motto:

"Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the from dies of it." - E.B. White

been itching to take out some time and do a whole series of posts on the comedians I love and what makes them work for me.

Edutainment from me to you! See, the web isn't just about pornography. Okay, but the fun parts are but still...

Fasting or Feasting...

Bugger. I just realized that Ramadan starts from the 3rd or 4th of October. Which completely derails my plans to do my first large scale solo show in late October. factor in Eid break and all that and I can't perform before mid-November at the earliest.
Which is alot later than I wanted to.

On the bright side that gives me time to work on more material. Maybe increase the show time to slightly over an hour that way. Howvere, I'll have to come up with a few Ramadan related bits. Everyone will be expecting it I guess. Will be bit of a challenge to come up with stuff about ramadan that hasn't been said or done before. That's what I like about Stand-up though. It forces you to look at things from a skewed angle. Alot of material just comes out of attacking old and obvious topics from a whole different perspective.

Still...wish I could perform in October. Dying to get this done.