Funny man Saad Haroon is on a roll.
Last year the public voted him Laugh Factory's second-funniest person in the world and now he's kicking off a comedy tour in Pakistan that'll see him entertain audiences in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. He won't stop there — after he wraps us his tour in Pakistan he'll start work on a new stand-up routine for audiences in North America, where he lives at the moment... or does he?
"In the near future I'll end up living not anywhere in particular," he jokes bright and early on Monday morning, the day of his last show in Karachi. "I'm going to be in Pakistan a lot, in the US a lot, and I'm also planning shows in the UK, and then across the world. I'm going to be where the work is. People have this idea of belonging to one place, but you know, Pakistan is home, and New York City is home."
"I want everyone in the world to see how great Pakistani art is," he continues. "That's why I take my comedy outside Pakistan. I love my Pakistani heritage, and why shouldn't everyone else? Why shouldn't I give everyone else a taste of that?
Saad's current tour, set to hit Lahore and Islamabad in the coming weeks, certainly gives you a taste of Pakistan. Titled "Don't Jealous Jaani, My Heart is Pakistani," the show touches on desi relationships, love, and growing older, all told through the lens of Saad's own experiences.
Here, he answers a few questions about what it's like to make people laugh as a day job.
So tell us more about your current show. What should we expect?
Saad Haroon: "So in the show I talk about specific experiences we have in Pakistan that nobody else in the world goes through — the kind of relationships we have, the ways we meet women — all of which is very special and interesting. We lose sight of the fact that the way we do things can actually be fun, and to the rest of the world I want to say, 'Don't jealous!' Because we should be proud that we have our own cultural practices and our own ways of doing things.
A lot of the show is about marriage, so they're a lot of jokes about me and my wife, and what's going on in our lives.
And your wife lets you use your lives for material? How did that conversation go?!"
Saad Haroon: Well, she's the first one to hear all the jokes, and she thought they were funny! She was the one who said, 'I think you should go ahead and use these.' So it's definitely important to have a spouse who has a sense of humour as well, you know.
Everyone's so interested in love and relationships and marriage, but people don't usually talk about these things out loud, except in the way that typical Pakistani dramas tell us how to, with lots of rona dhona and stuff. But there's a really fun, childlike, happy side to relationships as well, and I wanted to show us in my comedy. Also, I use a lot of funny stories from my past!
How long did it take you to actually write this show? And is the content in this tour going to be very different from your upcoming tours abroad?
Saad Haroon: You know, some jokes are interchangeable between audiences, because the basic premise is being married. But the jokes that resonate the most are the ones that are really culturally specific. The cultural context in Pakistan versus America is just so different. For months and months I struggled and sweated, trying to write a show that would work for well for Pakistani audiences and abroad. But it didn't work. At the end I decided I was going to write a separate show for Pakistan and a separate show for America. So after I wrap up the tour in Pakistan and I'm going to start tweaking my material for audiences abroad.
Some South Asian comedians have broken out into the mainstream in a big way, and now they cater to a global audience. Is that something you're interested in?
Saad Haroon: I think I'm always going to be known as a Pakistani comedian, and I don't want to shy away from that at all. And the question is, do people want to hear from a Pakistani comedian? Do they want to hear our stories? And I think in a lot of places they don't. We come under a cultural stereotype that some people don't like.
But then they are places like England which understand South Asian culture better. And in that context, we come into a category of coolness. So I do want to be that comedian who breaks out and makes it big, but I don't think I'll ever not be a 'Pakistani comedian.' I think people will either accept the different ideas I bring to them or they won't. Only time will tell.
Is TV on the cards at all? Aziz Ansari has his own show... could we see a Saad Haroon sitcom in the future?
Saad Haroon: So I do audition for projects that are interesting, and I'll read lines and everything. That is an avenue that I want to do well in, though I haven't fully pursued it yet. I feel like, if I do television it'll be more like late night TV. I think that's the kind of TV I love. I mean, I'm open to scripted comedy but it just hasn't happened yet.
So now that you're back touring in Pakistan, have people been showing you the love? How has the audience treated you?
Saad Haroon: The energy is really good. I perform in English, so in the audience you get everyone who speaks English from ages 15 to 80. Each show is different. Sometimes I don't have to try that hard, sometimes I have to try really hard. I mean, I already know the audience in Lahore is going to respond to my show differently than the Karachi audience. But, you know, I have to find a way to make everyone laugh at the same jokes!