By Sonya Rehman
Comedy comes to Lahore and leaves it howling for more!
On a frosty winter evening in Lahore (the 22nd of December), ‘SHARK’ (an improvisational comedy troupe) performed in an overcrowded auditorium in LUMS.
The show truly superceded my expectations.
While the concept of stand-up and improvisational comedy is relatively new in Pakistan, one did not expect it to become such an instant hit among the youth and, at the same time, be supported so passionately almost immediately when it stepped – toe-first with trepidation – onto the local media platform.
From ‘Black Fish’ to Sami Shah and Saad Haroon’s solo stand-up/improv shows, and now ‘SHARK’ – a group encompassing five boys and a girl – it seems as if the road ahead for comedy in Pakistan is a promising, bright one.
Training for six months, under the tutelage of Saad Haroon (who initiated ‘SHARK’), Danish Ali, Umair Pervez, Daniyal Ahmed, Sohaib Khan and Sana Nasir made the LUMS auditorium reverberate with laughter, non-stop for over an hour.
Their act was an absolute scream – tweaked with crazy humour and spontaneous wit. It was mad at best, all over the place, and a complete riot.
In addition to having the audience so tuned in to their act, ‘SHARK’ also made their performance highly interactive as suggestions were taken from the audience on a regular basis.
Getting audiences involved is extremely vital for every type of performer out there; one that must be executed confidently. In addition, a performer needs to understand his/her audience intuitively. Both the audience and the performer need to be ‘connected’ on one level.
Without a connection, the performance will fall flat on its eager little face. That being stated, Saad Haroon orchestrated his troupe’s performance with skill, made eye contact with his audience, and in between the acts, he’d make a joke or two with someone from the crowd.
Regarding the other members of the troupe, Danish Ali and Umair Pervez seemed to have a certain edge – they carried off their performances brilliantly, rarely ever making a cheesy joke.
Most importantly, they appeared confident in their own skin. And for comedy, that’s really important. A comedian, cannot, even for a minute, appear under confident or self-conscious. Why? Because audiences pick up on even the slightest vibe of awkwardness on the part of the performer, and that can simply ruin the entire show from start to finish.
But Danish and Umair held their ground competently. Daniyal and Sohaib too, were pretty funny – just a little bit more polishing of continuous rehearsing and exposure, and they’d be good to go!
Sana, on the other hand was far too self-conscious for comfort; which is unfortunate considering she’s the only girl part of ‘SHARK’.
Given the platform Sana’s been given; she really needs to brush up on her act and believe in herself.
Without it, she simply will not be able to carry off comedy, and that too, improvisational comedy – which is live, incredibly zany, wild and spontaneous.
That being stated, Sana simply must not be disheartened. If she gets better with time (and she definitely could), she may just go down in history as Pakistan’s first-ever female extempore comedian! Now that would be something to write home about.
In times like these, it is important for comedy in Pakistan to remain alive and kicking. And with comedy troupes – such as ‘SHARK’ – bringing forth a new branch of comedy (completely unfamiliar to local audiences), in turn encourages more youngsters to get up and take initiatives in the field of performing arts.
As the American literary critic, Harry Levin, once said: “The most protean aspect of comedy is its potentiality for transcending itself, for responding to the conditions of tragedy by laughing in the darkness.”
And with the sustenance of comedy in Pakistan by way of troupes such as ‘SHARK’, we just might be able to pull through.