While the wizards of the film and television industry continue to curate entertainment through storytelling and craft, times have changed with social media and digital influencers. There are new contenders with their candid comedic styles of being critical of society around them and hence winning popularity amongst the public.
Masters of their craft, the stand-up comedians and social media sensations, Danish Ali and Junaid Akram made an appearance on Time Out with Ahsan Khan to talk about the importance of their medium, the process of bringing humour behind their content and delivery, and their interactions with the audience.
Upon being asked who Ali looks up to in comedic pursuits, the YouTuber named veterans Anwar Maqsood, Moin Akhtar and Bushra Ansari. “They’re our old guards. Their hard work was reflective in their work, scripts were celebrated and given importance. Now it seems like the next generation skipped scriptwriting. There came a generational gap but now I’m hopeful it’s changing,” he said.
Ali is a doctor by profession but he left the field of medicine for stand-up comedy. Why, you ask? In simple words, he would rather become a successful comedian than be a “mediocre” doctor. “I realised very early on that I don’t share the same zeal to be surrounded by books and attend to patients on two hours of sleep. There were people like that around me and that made me think of my lack of passion for it.”
Akram jumped into the conversation and added, “But if you did become a mediocre doctor and messed up with a procedure on a patient, ek na ek video aa hi jati. Viral bhi hojati. (Someone would have uploaded a video [on your malpractice] and it would get viral too).”
Akram, who says he has a “taya abbu” look, has a blend of satire comedy and social critique in his videos. Talking about inspirations, he wanted to add Majid Jahangir’s name. “A few days ago, there was a video where he was in serious difficulty. It’s sad when you keep your hero on a pedestal and see them breaking. Jahangir sahab had done so many characters. He truly knew how to mask things.”
About his style, Akram owes everything to his “half a dozen” siblings. “We didn’t have internet back then so talking was the only option. But we wouldn’t just talk. There was always a roasting competition. That’s where my practice began. I got into stand-up and then to YouTube eventually to reach a wider audience,” he said.
It’ll be 10 years since Akram’s first video went viral in 2012. “When my first video went viral, I got an appreciative message from Somalia. I thought woah, Pakistanis live everywhere.” Akram’s use of the Arabic phrase, khalli balli, which loosely translates to let things go, became a hit amongst masses while he was working in sales in Dubai. “People started making tshirts and mugs and all kinds of merchandise for it and I didn’t even know. I was there being a corporate slave while back in Pakistan, people were celebrating it.”
When asked if being a stand-up comedian and a YouTuber are now their full time jobs, both Ali and Akram nodded. “The day I realised that I can make more money in Pakistan than Dubai, I left my job there and came back here. However, people don’t believe that this can be a source of income,” shared Akram.
Sharing an anecdote, he added, “Last night a police van stopped me for a security concern. They asked about my profession and I said YouTuber. Normally people leave me when I say that and they recognise me from my channel’s name. But this guy quipped, ‘Everyone nowadays it. So what?’” The host, Ahsan Khan added, “The police guy himself would be a TikToker too.”
The comedic duo also shared that their audiences often do not respect the time and place they’re at. “I was sitting at a dhaba with my friends for tea and this guy came uninvited asking me about why he hasn’t gotten his German visa as of yet. He sat there asking me like I’m a visa operator with the only logic that I toured Germany so I’d know,” mentioned Akram.
Upon his family’s hesitation or support in switching professions mid-way, Ali shared that his family never wanted him to pursue medicine. It was his dream initially to become a neurosurgeon. “My parents sort of had an idea that I’d flake later on. Since it’s an expensive degree, they tried their best to convince me to do something else.”
Ali has been happily married for 14 years now. Speaking about his wife’s support and involvement in his craft, the comedian gave a rather strange response. “My wife is in the healthcare sector and she doesn’t enjoy the media limelight and hence stays away from the camera. But we also do not really discuss work. She’d watch one or two videos but we never talk about work at home. If you ask me now, I wouldn’t be able to tell what exactly she does at work.”
Speaking about fellow comedians from Pakistan, Akram had an opinion about Zaid Ali T’s ageist comments in his videos. “He’s a good man but I have one complaint from him that he mentions his wife’s age in every interview, he says that his wife is four years older than him. I mean it’s okay, it’s fine, why does he mention it? My wife is also older. I think the idea of love is beyond this age restriction and I think he over emphasises on it. He wants to tell people about his nice gesture,” he commented.
Talking about favourite actors, singers and directors, Ali named Mahira Khan, Ali Azmat and Angeline Malik while Akram named Saba Qamar, Sajjad Ali and Wajahat Rauf.