A lone warrior without artillery, a captain without crew, a director without camera and a writer without pen, a single man with army of courage, a standup comedian stands alone and with his art and skills penetrates million of hearts. In my very brief experience of stage at school and university level, I have learnt something that one of the hardest things in this world is to engage the audience in front of you. My heart still pounds when I remember those blackouts I often went through and the embarrassing booing of audience which forced me to leave the stage without uttering a single word. Against this back drop when I listen to stand up comedians, I wishfully praise them for their spontaneity, courage, wit, satire, boldness and ability to grasp the attention of thousands without any hiccup.

Just like music, comedy is food for soul too. Everybody wants a little time out of their hustled lives. Since the inception of radio and TV, comedy programs, series and films have gathered worldwide admiration and attention. People regularly stick themselves with their favorite comedy shows and enjoy them thoroughly. Before electronic media, books and theatre use to fill the comic appetite of readers and audiences. People still read books and theatre is still intact, but as technology has affected every sphere of life, it has completely transformed the style of comedy. Unless you are not a student of literature, it would be difficult for you to understand classic comedies of Shakespeare, Barnard Shaw and Dente. They can only reach you in shape of adaptations. Comedy and culture go hand in hand, it’s difficult to understand a joke if you are not aware of the cultural context. As settings around the artists and authors kept evolving, styles of their illustrations acquired many shapes as well.

Standup comedy is without a doubt, one of the most difficult forms of entertainment to execute. Unlike directors, they don’t have any cast and crew; unlike writers they don’t have ample time to put their thoughts on paper. They face their audiences and deliver and keep sure about no dull moment in the whole show. Most of them do write scripts and prepare certain acts but at the point of delivery they flow like anything, uninterrupted and unparalleled from any kind of obstruction they make people laugh until they cry.

Though standup comedy is not a separate art as it involves skills of an actor, flow of a writer and vision of a director but still standup comedy is not a cup of tea for everyone. There are numerous examples in which standup comedians have turned into directors and actors. Robbin Williams, Jim Carry, Ady Murphie, Eric Bana and Kevin Specy are famous actors who started their career as a stand up comedians and later turned out be trendsetters in field of acting.

Every comedian in general and standup comedian in specific share some common attributes. They are dissatisfied, skeptic and suspicious about normality of the society. They see what other ignores and when they translate those observations into an act, people enjoy and can relate with it very slickly.

George Carlin and Bill hicks from past are examples of such standup comedians who changed the thought perspective of many. People remember them as a revolutionaries and social critics. One of Carlin’s famous one liner, "Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit”, is not just a comic jibe but a question mark on  over obsession with importance of jobs in a capitalist set up.  At other instant, he said "Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist." That’s not even a humorous one liner but an accurate explanation of people like him. Born in the era of cold war, when America and Russia were indulged in a battle of ideologies, it required a certain amount of bravery, courage and truth to mock ideology of his own nation, and Carlin had it all.

Bill Hicks was soulful too in this regard. He not only use to make people laugh but put some serious questions in their minds after the show. One of his famous questions was, “when you’re..Stepping over a guy on the side walk..Does it ever occur to you think, Wow. Maybe our system doesn’t work”. Probing into this question, one can find many answers and links which will force that particular person to think in broader perspective. His whole fight was to make people understand that they should break free of the strains of financial conditioning and evolve into a society based on love and compassion.

In recent stand up comedians, Russell peters have impressed me because of his ability to bridge a gap between different communities of the world through his racist jokes and one liners. Though it sound ironic but fact of the matter is that when thousands of audience belonging to diverse cultures laughs at each other, it definitely create some kind of harmony. Secondly, Peter’s audience learns about those aspects of other cultures which usually cannot be experienced.

Pakistani entertainment industry never lacked quality satire and talented comedians. In fact, comedians have taken over the political shows in recent times. Rather than listening to analysts, audience find their mockery on politics and politicians more amusing. We will not go into quality of Pakistani comic geniuses as it require a whole thesis rather I want to point out few emerging stand up comedians who have potential to go International.

Saad Haroon is first on the list. For last ten years he is steadily making his name in the world of standup comedy. He is among of the contributors in introduction of improvisational theatre in Pakistan. Like every other quality standup comedian he plays around his strength and stay indigenous. One of his famous standup  comedy tour was, “Don’t worry, Be Pakistani”. Saad is the creator, host and writer for Pakistan’s first English language comedy show ‘The Real News’ A show that uses satire and sketch to break boundaries as the first weekly comedy show in Pakistan to be filmed in front of a live studio audience. Saad has also recently written part of a radio play for the BBC entitled ‘Bora Bistra’ and was also chosen to take part in the World Wide Jam, a BBC film project twinning a writer and a film maker from different parts of the world together to make a short film to be shown in a BBC festival. 

Danish Ali is the second on the list. Originally a Karachi based doctor but famous for his stand up shows. He is active at social media as well and keeps making videos regarding different social situations in Pakistan. Though he has long way to go and must work very hard to get international acclamation but he definitely got potential.

The time in Pakistan is very ripe for entertainers if they want to make their identities as standup comedians. This genre of comedy poses many challenges but it also provides an opportunity for those who have immense talent. Because logistics involved in standup comedy are very few so you just have to get on the stage and speak your heart out.