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Wahla on fine line between crass humour, comic relief



KARACHI:

The stand-up comedy scene in Pakistan is not one of the biggest, nevertheless, the community of both listeners and performers has grown over the years. One such name that loyal fans of the stand-up scene are sure to know of is Omer Wahla, popularly known on social media now as Where’s My Samosa. Omer moved to the US a couple of years ago but visits Pakistan every now and then. Sometimes, he also participates in the open-mic nights in Karachi. Speaking to The Express Tribune during his recent visit, Omer shared that he does not do any shows in the US. 

He shared, “Ever since my daughter was born, she’s been my primary focus and when you work a nine-to-five, you only have a couple of hours before your child comes back from school and goes to sleep. That’s where all my time and energy is spent and stand-up has been on the back burner for now.”

Omer was recently part of District19’s Comedy Night wherein other performers included Shehzad Ghias Sheikh, Hasan Bin Shaheen, and several others. Adding on to returning to the mic after quite some time, Omer shared that he wasn’t nervous this time around as the audience had already warmed up to him, thanks to his social media presence. He said, “I’ve gotten kind of into that mindset that if it goes well, it goes, well, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. This time around, I was only doing a quick 10-minute set so I wasn’t nervous and it went really well. People responded positively and I think that once people see you online, you’re not really an unknown and it’s a lot easier.”
 
Stand-up shows vs online sketches

While many in Pakistan still enjoy the entire atmosphere of an open-mic night, many stand-up comics have also moved to the digital medium wherein they often create content for social media on Instagram, TikTok, or even YouTube. Omer, too, does the same. When asked if he feels social media will take over the physical aspect of a show, he explained, “Online sketches will always have their place for the majority of the population because it’s fast content. You can just swipe and you’ve got 10 videos, especially since TikTok came around. But there’s always going to be a place for stand-up. Some people love that direct interaction and I personally like it as well.”
 
While Omer has been creating a lot of comedy content on social media, his videos often don’t require a lot of prep or dramatic character transformation as compared to his counterparts. “People would rather see something really funny than something with high production value. So whenever I do get time, I quickly shoot a video with whatever comes to my head. It will be a lot of random thoughts because I’ve got ADHD but the moment I find something funny, I’ll quickly shoot it and then post it directly from my phone – and then move on with my day so I can actually get that thought out of my head. Otherwise, it’s just going to bug me throughout the day.”
 
On political satire and sexist jokes

Like everywhere else, current affairs have been the mainstay of comedy in Pakistan – be it TV, stage shows, or even social media content now. Many might also feel that it’s a coping mechanism of sorts to escape otherwise stressful thoughts. Omer too has done his fair share of political satire. Sharing his two cents on the same, he explained, “The reason I started off with political satire was that I realised that in Pakistan, it doesn’t matter if you’re 12-years-old or 60-years-old, every single person follows politics. Everyone knows about it, everyone is into it, and everyone follows it. But whether it be politics or anything, one can find something humorous in everything.”
 
Times have been changing and people are getting more and more aware of the subjects discussed around them. Comedy too has been the topic of conversation whenever talks of sexism have arisen. Many feel that sexist jokes are very common, be it in stand-up or televised comedy. Omer opined, “When I’m writing content for a show, I know my audience and I know what they’ll laugh at. And when they come to see me perform, they’re already aware of the brand of comedy I have. I don’t necessarily do clean comedy. But there are certain topics I don’t talk about such as rape, religion, and sexism. It’s less about offending people, but I think it’s mostly because I don’t find those topics funny.”
 
The Pakistan versus India debate

Stand-up comedy in India has reached new heights and a lot of the comedians there, including some Bollywood actors, have shared that they’ve learned it from Pakistani artists/comedians. Indian stand-up comedians get a lot of global traction too. They’ve got shows on digital streaming platforms, unlike their Pakistani counterparts. When asked if a similar future for Pakistani comedians is on the cards, Omer elaborated, “Companies such as Netflix look at population and demographic. There’s a billion and a half Indians and a very small number of Pakistanis in the whole world which is why such companies are always going to go with people who will attract a larger demographic.”
 





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