On a warm Saturday evening, in a packed PACC hall, stood Saad Haroon before a hundred odd people in the audience, probably thinking, "Wow, this is actually happening."
For the 2nd funniest man in the world, seeing a full-house is probably not an unusual thing but this evening, something was different. Something that for some reason, hadn't happened before. A group of 24 comedy acts - men, women, aspiring, established, just joined a troupe, just left a troupe - had all come together to pull off a six-hour long "charity comedy marathon" as Haroon put it. The entire proceeds of the evening were to go to the Edhi Foundation and considering that the cost of a full 6-hour show amounted to Rs. 3000, it seemed like a solid initiative.
One of the comedians, Tabish Hashmi, rightly pointed out that it was the performers who were actually giving out to charity and not the audiences as the latter were actually getting to attend a full comedy show in return for their money.
Charitable intentions aside, the show was a solid effort in showcasing the entire comedy scene's mettle in front of a large audience. This way, a lot of people who would not normally turn up for a comedy show if it was being headlined by a lesser known comedian got to see what each comedian brings to the table and whose style they most identify with and appreciate. In that way, the idea behind the event was brilliant, because some of the best performances of the night came from comedians who weren't as known in the line-up.
Umar Ahmed delivered a really punchy performance, leaving the audiences half-shocked and half-amused but wholeheartedly laughing nonetheless. Faheem Azam, or Faheem bhai as he is most popularly known amongst fellow comedians, was effortless in his set, providing an insider's perspective into Pathans - a refreshing twist from the usual anecdotes that pass off as humour against the community.
Some of the other brilliant performances of the night included Ayesha Tariq and her experiences as a woman which she played out as a (one would hope, or not) fictional telephonic conversation with a PTCL representative. Osama Sami, Annie Shamim and Tabish Hashmi also had refreshingly different things to talk about and when coupled with smart, well thought out performances, they made for really memorable sets.
Akbar Chaudhry was one of the most awaited names in the first slot of the show and even though he delivered from his previously existing set, he had gotten even better with his comic timing and delivery, so that when his set ended, people were left wondering that they had actually been laughing about the Ding Dong ad and the ordeal of having kulfis in weddings all this while.
The comedy marathon in itself, was quite a big step forward in the way that it brought a diverse set of comedians together and featured both male and female performers without their performances being at the expense of each other. Yes, there were some misses but overall, it was a night full of unbridled laughter and wonderment about if there will be food outside.
Of the known comedians, Hassan bin Shaheen, both performed solo and then appeared as a mentor to an improv troupe, called the Improv Army, consisting of a group of 17 to 19-year olds who had been in training for over a year. Faiza Saleem was in full form and delivered the most from The Khawatoon troupe, matched only by one other performer in the troupe called Amtul Baweja, who was quick on her feet and helped Saleem deliver some of the funniest acts of the set.
For anyone who has been to any of the comedy shows in Pakistan, knows that there really is no doubt that we are sitting on a mine of good jokes and original content waiting to be performed and taken to a larger audience.
The Smile Till Sehri as the comedy marathon was called, was a much-needed step in that direction and that's something we can all get behind or as Shaheen said as part of one his jokes, "I'd tap that... respectfully."