knew that comedy was really such serious business? Saad Haroon's
recent stand-up comic act was a rollicking, hilarious potpourri
of political satire, funny songs and cultural jokes. A few days
later Saad shares that the show was the result of eight months of
hard, grueling work.
One went to meet Saad Haroon expecting to meet a funny, garrulous
young comedian - onstage, he certainly is a barrel of laughs. But
in real life, Saad is more introspective than slapstick funny. He
certainly is passionate about comedy but he isn't himself a walking,
talking comic act. I guess we expect comedians to be funny in everyday
life just like they are when performing. It's difficult to imagine
them as regular individuals with regular ambitions, plans and dilemmas.
We expect their every sentence to contain a punch line.
Saad is great at what he does but more than anything else, he comes
off as someone who loves his work and is willing to work very hard
to achieve his goals. So far, so good. His recent standup show has
run to sold-out packed houses and he's a riot on stage. As he himself
says, ÒComedy is just one aspect of my personality. I also
want to one day maybe direct a film or write a book. I believe that
with hard work, you can accomplish anything you want.Ó
Seated in the spacious drawing room of his house, where he lives
with his parents, Saad explains how being a comedian can be emotionally
draining. ÒIn an hour-long stand-up act, you have to come
up with a punch line every 30 seconds and it has to be really funny.
There are days when I am locked in my room for five hours and come
up with nothing and then there are mornings when I wake up and immediately
think up three great jokes.Ó
His chosen career may be trying but, nevertheless, Saad looks exuberant
when he is on stage. He launches into songs at the drop of a hat,
accompanied by Amin Arif on the guitar; plays the harmonica with
flair; quips about everything ranging from weddings to pollution
to politics and picks on squirming members of the audience and bamboozles
them with trick questions and wisecracks. His friend and fellow-comedian
Danish Ali opens his act for him and though Saad and Danish have
both been performing for a while now - Saad for 10 years while Danish
for four - they look more like young boys having the time of their
lives rather than avant-garde comedians.
Saad is in his early 30's yet he looks ebulliently young - no stress
lines, no signs of disappointment, no caustic comments on life.
One credits his youthful looks to the fact that he loves his job.
ÒI enjoy making people laugh,Ó he agrees with me.
ÒI worked in textiles for six years, moonlighting as a comedian.
Then, one day I decided that this was what I really wanted to do.
I had a hard-time convincing my parents. Nobody in my family had
attempted doing something like this - they're straightforward, business-oriented
people. They took their time accepting my work but now, finally,
they are able to acknowledge that I am not too bad as a full-time
comedian. It's great when I can bring that extra happiness to people's
lives,Ó he reasons rather altruistically.
Altruism aside, his jokes are all in English and the songs he sings
are parodies of English songs.
When grilled about the trials of pursuing a career in comedy in
English when most Pakistanis speak Urdu or at the most, stilted,
laboured English, he says: ÒIt's true that my audience is
limited, so far, I've performed internationally and in Pakistan,
only in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. I do want to perform in other
cities eventually, perhaps in Urdu. But when I do attempt comedy
in Urdu, I want to do it well. Right now, my target audience, people
who are fluent in English, do enjoy my shows and come back to see
Saad began his tryst as a comedian 10 years ago when he formed Pakistan's
first ever improvisational comic troupe, Blackfish, along with some
Even though Blackfish steadily rose to fame, the group eventually
disbanded. All the members had day jobs or higher studies to pursue.
Saad, though, continued on. In his tour, Saad Haroon Very Live,
he performed standup comedy acts in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
With The Real News, a TV show he hosted, wrote and produced, he
reverted from improvisational comedy to writing comic scripts. The
show, in which Saad was accompanied by another young comedian, Danish
Ali, focused on ridiculing current news and happenings. ÒDanish
and I would scour newspapers daily and come up with jokes related
to recent affairs,Ó recalls Saad. ÒSometimes we were
told to tone things down - we were admonished, 'don't make fun of
the army' or 'don't make fun of this or that political party' -
but overall, we were given a free hand with our content.Ó
ÒAs a rule, though, I believe in humor that has some sense
to it. What's so funny about dressing an actor up as a certain politician
and making him sing a song? Isn't it better to make fun of something
that particular politician has done? Freedom of speech and media
is a great thing but you have to use it carefully. If you use it
callously, someone or the other will eventually take it away from
Even now, a lot of Saad's jokes focus on Pakistan's political circumstances.
He reasons that some political antics are just so ridiculous he
just has to make fun of them. However, there are certain topics
that he considers taboo. Walking the fine line between harmless
hilarity and unpleasant impertinence, Saad explains, ÒI think
that we are a very religious nation and so, I never joke about religion.
Cover Photo by Amean J