NEW YORK: It seemed unbelievable that Pakistani humour could have such appeal and can beat contestants from UAE, France and Spain by getting more than 7,000 votes.
Saad Haroon was over the moon at his accolade: “Even if I had taken the last position, I would not have been disappointed.” Obviously many of my fellow countrymen can barely contain ourselves at the groundhog day of military coups (Pakistan has had three since 1958 and many more unsuccessful attempts).
Then there is the seemingly endless supply of militants who sometimes can’t work out what particular faction they belong to at a given moment in time. The long blackouts due to energy shortages give us plenty of opportunity to develop the darker side of our humour. One of his more popular routines is about how terror groups always seem to meet up in the same place. Because I watch American movies and I know where terrorists meet. Terrorists always meet in the place called the bathroom. Yes for some strange reason any money exchanges, bomb making, shady activity… always in the bathroom.
He gets laughs for his voiceover for a Bollywood treatment he dreamed up called Pipeline of Passion, a steamy imaginary phone conversation between Pakistan’s former President Musharraf and Sonia Gandhi, the leader of India’s Congress party. In this re-imagining the two leaders are fighting to give the disputed territory of Kashmir to one another: “No you take Kashmir…” When asked if he enjoys making fun of people’s habits and attitudes, Saad simply replies that it is now his job. “I never lie! If such things exist in the society then I will make fun of them. Not talking about these issues won’t make them disappear, in fact they will stay on.” The extremism that one finds in Pakistan is the frequent butt of his humour. Haroon says he feels he needs to understand that more before venturing there.
It is worth mentioning that Pakistan has very strict blasphemy laws – something very few people find funny in Pakistan. “I write about everything! Some things are more serious and some things are personal and some things are just silly depending on my mood,” he says. Mr Haroon has spent 13 years spreading laughter. He says that after the 9/11 attacks in the US, his home city of Karachi was a place of despondency. So he set up a comedy group called Black Fish and then people began to take notice. Initially, he was popular mainly in Pakistan but now shows in the US have become more popular.
Despite the distinctly unfunny political and security situation, Mr Haroon sees a future for comedy in Pakistan. There are comedy shows and even in colleges, he says, students have started organising extempore sessions. Satire has always met a very receptive audience in this country.
And despite the conservativism of Pakistani society, he says it certainly is possible to make ends meet as a funny man. Laugh Factory says the purpose behind international contests like the Funniest Person in the World is to promote peace and tolerance through laughter. “I see nothing faulty with Pakistan more or less than any other country, my job is to highlight things so we take a closer look at them.”
Mr Haroon was awarded $1000 (£600) as prize money. He says with that he has covered his travel expenses. He has also reminded Pakistanis there are some things to laugh about.