Haroon occasionally organizes open mic night at different venues.
On one such night, four years ago, he met Danish Ali. "Our
eyes met over candlelight and we shared a cigarette … no,
wait, that's a bad joke. Don't print that!" chortles Danish
Danish Ali's jokes are hardly ever bad though. He opens for Saad
Haroon's stand-up act and has the audience in stitches within seconds.
He delivers his punch lines with theatrical flair - often in Urdu
- reiterates between being inanely funny and cleverly witty and
does uncanny, ridiculously amusing imitations. Earlier on, in the
TV show The Real News, he was the reporter with the deadpan expression
who went berserk over women drivers, questioned actress Meera about
the situation in North Korea (!!!) and examined tiny multicolored
chicks for signs of Bird Flu. Off-stage, Danish is still goofy,
wacky and endearingly likeable.
"I was horrible when I attempted to do stand-up comedy for
the first time," he recalls. "I thought I was really funny
but, except for one joke, no one laughed during my act. It was terrifying."
And yet, Danish persisted on and eventually became the hilarious
comedian he is now. "I had no choice," he reasons. "Seinfeld
once said that comedians don't just want to be on stage, they have
a need for it. Even though it petrifies me, I still love performing
and while I support all my fellow-performers, during a show all
I want to do is be out there and make people laugh."
Despite his craving for the stage, Danish still occasionally gets
nervous. "But the best way to deal with nervousness is to talk
to the audience about it," he discloses. "Once when I
was feeling unsettled, I told the audience, 'You know, they say
when you're nervous you should imagine your audience in their underwear'.
Then, I stared down at the crowd and this got a few titters. I said,
'You're lucky I am not nervous' and they laughed some more. Next,
I added, 'But I am a pervert' and scrutinized them again and they
thought that was really funny. That's how I deal with nervousness.
I get the audience on my side."
Danish is 26, married and in fourth year of medical school. Still,
he manages to squeeze in time to write and perform comedy. "When
I first started out, people told me that I wouldn't be able balance
studies and comedy," he says. "I am very stubborn. This
only got me determined to prove them wrong." Still, it hasn't
been easy. On a regular day, Danish returns home from school in
the afternoon and then works on comic scripts until late in the
night. "It's tiring but both comedy and medicine are a passion
for me. I can't leave either though I may die young attempting to
do both at the same time! I often don't get enough sleep and have
a body that creaks and groans all the time."
Exhausting though it may be for him, Danish Ali certainly knows
how to have the audience rolling in the aisles. His joie de vivre
on stage is infectious. Poker-faced, he begins his act and from
the very first joke, the audience begins to snigger. He hopes to
perform his first solo stand-up act in the summers and judging from
his repertoire of work so far, it's bound to be great. While he
continues to pursue his medical career, he needn't worry about his
path as a comedian at least. Here's hoping we see a lot more of
Danish Ali in the future!
by Kohi Marri