Comedy in Pakistan: Who’d have thought?

Published Jul 06, 2013 02:50pm

enter image description hereI am in the US. I arrived at the US immigration and waited patiently in line. I never ever have problems at Immigration because to the Americans I look Mexican and I have an English accent, the officials get so confused it really doesn't cross their minds that I could be anything of any danger.

This time I flew into Orlando airport, and the kind looking white male officer called me forward.

I passed him my British passport, he saw my US visa inside and he said, “What do you do?”

“I’m a comedian.” He looked at my face and laughed out loud, as though this in itself was the biggest joke.

“Where do you do that?”

“All over the world.”

He laughs again out loud and says, “Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“What type of material do you do?”

“I talk about anything and everything whatever I see, observational.”

There was a long pause. He looked at my passport then looked at me and said, “Are you of Pakistani heritage?”

I said, “No, I’m Indian.” I thought I don’t want to get into some kind of Q&A about whether or not I am related to Osama Bin Laden. Technically, I am Indian. My mother was born in India before partition so it wasn't a lie.

He says, “So why do you have a Pakistani Visa in your passport?”

“Because I toured there.”

“What, comedy?”

“Yes, comedy.”

“Did they get it?”

“Yes.”

“What language did you speak?”

“English.”

“And they got it?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know?”

“Because they laughed.”

“They laughed? Do you specialise in Pakistani jokes?”

“No.”

“So what do you talk about?”

“All kinds of things. Life.”

“So you’re observational?”

“Yes.”

There was another long pause. He looked at my passport, looked at me, and said, “Are you sure?”

“Sure about what?” I replied.

“Sure about everything you've told me.”

“Yes, of course I am.”

He then sat there and laughed out loud for about three minutes.

He said, “I've heard it all now. I've heard everything. This is something else. Comedy in Pakistan, who’d have thought, hey?”

I said, “Are you going to let me in, or are you just going to sit there chatting me up and laughing in my face all day.”

“Since you've made me laugh, I think I’ll let you in. Have a nice day.”

When I arrived at my show and told the Pakistani’s there what had happened they couldn't believe it.

“What? They didn't believe that Pakistani’s laugh? Do they think we are inhuman? Is this what they think of us?”

I had to tell them, that the Immigration Officer had actually laughed all the way through my time at passport control. So he must at least have found something about me funny. I was quite surprised at his reaction, because it had never happened to me before in all the years I have been coming to the US.

I have never flown into Orlando before; maybe its just Florida that thinks like this, maybe it’s just Orlando, or maybe it’s just him. I wouldn't want to judge all immigration officers in the US in the same way, that one man thinks that all people with Pakistani visa’s in their passports are humourless, comedy unfriendly, backward individuals that wouldn't know a joke if it shot them in the face with a handgun.

I hope that I in someway changed his mind about something, anything. We certainly had a laugh together and I quite liked him. I just think he hadn't travelled very far. Probably beyond the immigration booth in which he sat.

Not his fault then. You can’t blame him. Let me be a bit thick, a bit stupid and a bit ignorant.

He probably gets all his information from CNN, thinks that everyone in Pakistan lives in a cave and has never laughed, and the last time he saw a brown funny woman was on South Park, and she was imaginary.

But we both liked each other, we both got on, neither of us felt any animosity towards each other and most of all, he gave me some great new material.


Shazia Mirza is an award winning stand-up comedian and writer. She has performed all over the world. A columnist for The Guardian UK, she was named Columnist of the Year at the prestigious PPA Awards. Find out more from her website. Follow her on Twitter @shaziamirza1.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (55) (Closed)


Anuj
Jul 06, 2013 02:49pm

The Americans have an opinion on everyone and everything as they are the masters' of The Universe, so to say, at this point in time in history.

Once upon a time, I suppose, some Turks who ruled the known world then (and which gives a majority of the ummah, including arabs who were nomads even then, their "we were great then" - thought process ) would have had their own similar opinions of non Muslim barbarians. So, go get a life, and just do your own thing......

Sachin Jain
Jul 06, 2013 03:35pm

One thing that your article reveals is that Pakistanis & People of pakistani origin are so ashamed of themselves, they they identify themselves as Indians to others.

If you don't have any self respect...why would others respect you???

aaa
Jul 06, 2013 04:01pm

Funny whenever i see anything other than pakistani i feel they dont know what humour is. There is no depth in any material the same few topics over and over again.

syedqaamer@cox.net
Jul 06, 2013 04:40pm

come to DC for a visit

Baluch
Jul 06, 2013 04:56pm

I do not think that the official was that far off in assuming that the Pakistanis living at home would not appreciate a stand up comedian - and a female one at that! Am not sure if Shazia has ever tried that as a career in Pakistan - hence the official simply laughing his way through the encounter. Check out the new age Pakistani male - he sports a beard, has a swarthy look, has a ruffled shalwar kurta, and with his looks, lets strangers know that they should keep their distance, and lets his family know that they must toe the line! It is a tough neighborhood in Pakistan - the only laughter they hear is coming from those that are continuously tightening their noose over our once harmonious and peaceful land.

Feroz
Jul 06, 2013 05:26pm

Why did you call yourself an Indian, when you were not born there, lived there or had its passport ? Do not worry as you are not an exception --- 90 % of Pakistani expats call themselves Indian, such is their love for that country.

IQBAL KHAN
Jul 06, 2013 05:42pm

I think the general Americans are kept ignorant through Fox and their version of CNN. I had a pleasant experience at Orlando airport when I had to visit my father recovering from a botched up surgery in the US. P.S. Thanks again Officer Bishop.

MUHAMMED ATIF
Jul 06, 2013 06:12pm

Haha :D...that was quite interesting...

BCG
Jul 06, 2013 07:05pm

Of late, I have heard about quite a few instances about Pakistanis claiming Indian heritage in the western countries to avoid the well deserved shame and suspicion when you tell others that you are of Pakistani stock. How convenient to claim Indian heritage when you get into trouble. Pathetic.

Tariq
Jul 06, 2013 07:05pm

You should have comp'd him a couple of tickets for one of your shows in Orlando. Told him to bring his wife along. I am sure in the small circle of his friends the perception of Pakistanis would have changed if he had attended one of your shows. You should have told him to check out Russell Peters and Aziz Ansari. A couple of desi comedians who have done a lot to shatter stereotypes using standup comedy throughout America.

The only way to change people's opinions is through interaction on a human to human level. Unfortunately, many Pakistani immigrants prefer to live in the safety of familiarity, surrounding themselves with other immigrants, and never venturing outside their comfort zones. I once met a person at a desi party who mentioned that he had lived in Chicago for over 40 years and he had never even heard of Wrigley Field let alone seen a Cubs game.

a.k.lal
Jul 06, 2013 07:36pm

Sad thing no. one---pakis in USA claim they are Indians. The writer did it. We won't discuss why and what are the benefits. Sad thing no. two---Americans know it and catch the lie.The custom officer immediately caught her lie.

Hasin Ahmed
Jul 06, 2013 09:14pm

That is a totally fabricated crap. Exchanges between an arriving passenger and an immigration officer are never that lengthy.One or two questions at the most especially if some one is holding a passport of a country that has visa-waver agreement with the US and UK is one of those countries. Perhaps the lady wants to tell the readers that she holds British passport and has visited the United States.

musthaq ahmed
Jul 06, 2013 09:11pm

I saw a Pakistani with an extra long beard in salwar kameez driving a battered car with a partially veiled wife and several children in Austin Texas last year. It took my breath off. Is there anything smart and wise in the culture? Little humorous.

khan08
Jul 06, 2013 10:19pm

most of the time immigration does'nt bother unnecessarily + you're 'shazia'.

Md Imran
Jul 06, 2013 10:47pm

The last thing any proud Pakistani would call themselves is "Indian". You have let us all down !

jagreets
Jul 06, 2013 11:19pm

If it true, even with British Passport, she is denying Pakistani heritage at immigration. It may be hard for common Pakistani in US with Pakistani passport. So everyone should watch their actions as these days to whole world,it reflects image of our society/country.

Muhammad Awais
Jul 07, 2013 12:35am

Sounds funny but in fact it is serious situation because it has its concerned with Pakistan. Pakistan has lost its reputation and place in the world just because of the different things happening here.

Kamal, Alberta
Jul 07, 2013 12:33am

In a book of a Pakistani Ambassador’s memoirs, he wrote, during a visit to American school during get to together, an American girl had asked, "Are Pakistanis living in houses? They have houses to live? Pakistani Ambassador was amused and replied, "No Ma’m Pakistanis are living on trees. So, you can expect such annoyance from ethnocentric.

Sonal
Jul 07, 2013 01:20am

Interesting story. Not so unusual for an American immigrations experience - I've passed American immigrations about 17-18 times and its always been an "experience".

Interesting that you chose to tell them you're Indian, btw. Indians aren't treated any better - I'm Canadian born, of Indian origin, but always get asked a ton of questions in the US.

I don't complain though - to be fair, no other country has been as terrorism free as the US, after 9/11. Better safe than sorry.

Parvez
Jul 07, 2013 01:45am

Nicely nerrated................ the immigration guy was pretty observant and would you really blame him for thinking the way he does. You must be a pretty good stand-up to have seen the humour in the exchange.

Shakil
Jul 07, 2013 02:28am

I had similar conversation with immigration officer when i landed in Vegas last year. He looked little surprised by my answers. Where did you study computer science? reply was Pakistan and UK, Pakistan?? he said with surprise and wasnt convinced, then he assumed that i could only study in "England" if free and asked me was it a scholarship? more surprised when I said no!

vivek
Jul 07, 2013 08:15am

And why did you say you are an Indian ? Your mother was born in India but what about your father ?

KK
Jul 07, 2013 08:50am

Reminded me of that horrid movie from 2005 "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World". If they don't think we laugh it means they don't consider us human.

Raj
Jul 07, 2013 09:08am

Generally Pakistanis enjoy "In your face comedy". They kind of find it hard to enjoy subtle bits.....

T.I.
Jul 07, 2013 09:37am

Interesting. Enjoyed the article. Just curious, since you are a british citizen, why did you need visa to visit US?

jakhar
Jul 07, 2013 09:39am

Funny Indian making a Pakistani Laugh.... ha ha ha

gary
Jul 07, 2013 01:24pm

@Baluch:

''Check out the new age Pakistani male - he sports a beard, has a swarthy look, has a ruffled shalwar kurta, and with his looks, lets strangers know that they should keep their distance, and lets his family know that they must toe the line! It is a tough neighborhood in Pakistan''

You are so correct. The length of beard must be long, to scare off any potential employer in the west. A very scary picture indeed,always on a Arab type long dress, faces very irritant as if he is trying his best to avoid the lesser mortals.

gary
Jul 07, 2013 01:29pm

''Muslim immigrants in the West have perhaps been the worst affected by 9/11 and its fallout. Their position has been made more precarious by the militancy of young radicals born and brought up in the countries their parents and grandparents migrated to. The entire community is now viewed with suspicion by both security services and the majority of ordinary people.

At the workplace and on the streets, Muslim men sporting long beards and women wearing all-enveloping burkas are seen as ungrateful immigrants who despise the West and its culture, and yet enjoy the benefits available to all citizens. The gulf between the host community and Muslim migrants is wider than ever.''

http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/10/pyrrhic-victories-collateral-damage.html

Jerry
Jul 07, 2013 03:37pm

Hi Shazia,

I can see you are trying to win hearts of the Pakistanis by sensationalizing and capitalizing on a trivial happening at Orlando. Why not?

The immigration officer might have found it funny knowing another comedian who had completely different credentials was also a regular visitor too - Rehman Malik. He too would give someone a fit any time.

Dubya
Jul 07, 2013 03:39pm

Lol that you claimed to be Indian. Not to worry, the immigration guy will probably claim to be Canadian if he ever visits Pakistan.

Ossy
Jul 07, 2013 05:43pm

@Dubya:

Lol... apt and funny!

Sunny
Jul 07, 2013 06:11pm

Nice Article.But do British Citizens needs US visa.I am not sure about that.

Samiya
Jul 07, 2013 06:20pm

I admire your thought process and pity the American for his! But it's still sad to know you called yourself Indian! You may have fallen prey to the same thinking pattern that the American shares!, even if in a small way!

Ganesh
Jul 07, 2013 06:33pm

Appreciate author's honesty in openly accepting fact that she claimed to be Indian...

Mariz
Jul 07, 2013 06:42pm

@Baluch: Ameen. Well said, but very few sanctimonious people (of both the liberal and the conservative bent of mind) in the pure land get this simple fact. After all nationalism is the green-tinted glass that everyone likes to wear

Canadian
Jul 07, 2013 07:48pm

Nothing new in Canada most of Pakistanis pretend to be Indians while looking for work or rental property

Greg
Jul 07, 2013 08:13pm

@IQBAL KHAN: I'm so glad you like it here in our United States. Appparently, you haven't been here too long... Or maybe just long enough to get sucked into the left-wing mythology that Fox News, or as they are fond of calling it, Faux News, is the news source for all right wing,mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging American trash.People who love to bash Fox News have a tendency to flatter themselves intellectually. And for the record, Americans are no more provincial and ignorant than any other nationality.Thanks for weighing in Iqbal!

Sandeep singh
Jul 07, 2013 10:09pm

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha LMAO.

Ali
Jul 08, 2013 12:27am

A lame attempt to make up an article. Sorry, not very funny. DAWN please get to real reporting.

fadoo
Jul 08, 2013 12:59am

Now I can count two articles of yours that I have really enjoyed, the other one about the generation gap and lack of communication, keep up the good work. For the record, I have taken a few "one way flights" in US (I am a car enthusiast and sometimes the good ones r far away) and have never experienced any questioning, I understand that they were domestic flights but not all of us r stereotyped, although I do not sport a conservative look and have often been mistaken for south america

asim
Jul 08, 2013 02:27am

@Jerry: Good one!

asim
Jul 08, 2013 02:36am

@gary:

You are right!. This time Muslims before Russians, Koreans, Japanese and Germans. Even before Native Indians. I am curious who is next?

Said
Jul 08, 2013 04:20am

@T.I.: She didn't say she had or needed a visa. She still, however, has to go through US Immigration and the issue was the Pakistani visa.

Ahsan
Jul 08, 2013 09:08am

@T.I.: they don't need a visa.. they just get a formal visa stamped on their passports when they arrive at a U.S airport.

Mysitc
Jul 08, 2013 10:53am

Thanks.... if the stand-up is as dry as this piece, i'd avoid it.

Malik
Jul 08, 2013 01:15pm

It is quite ironic that a comedian's blog is so unfunny. There was nothing funny in your writing. If you describe someone was laughing at you does not make the writing funny.

Talha
Jul 08, 2013 01:55pm

@Jerry: "I can see you are trying to win hearts of the Pakistanis by sensationalizing and capitalizing on a trivial happening at Orlando."

Exactly how screwed up are you mentally?

And is it really Jerry or Jotesh?

Anees
Jul 08, 2013 03:03pm

Why did you abuse yourself by calling yourself an Indian?

Gilzai
Jul 08, 2013 04:22pm

@T.I.: When a visitor to the US plans to work in the US that person needs a visa, in her case she should have a P visa to work as artist.

Jotesh
Jul 08, 2013 06:03pm

@Talha: do you believe that India does not have anyone named Jerry? Or Jamaal or Jatinder? They are all Jotesh out there.

Mukesh
Jul 08, 2013 06:22pm

Don't know the reason but in the US, most of Pakistanis, Afghans, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans - when asked about their nationalities, claim to be from India.

Their restaurants board a sign of Indian Food and their grocery stores claim to sell Indian groceries.

Anoop
Jul 08, 2013 06:37pm

So the next time we Indians point out that some Pakistanis call themselves Indian, and Pakistanis don't believe us, I'll show them this article.

I'll bookmark this..I suggest other commentators to do the same, if they want to save time and energy. :)

T.I.
Jul 08, 2013 08:42pm

@Said: I was referring to her statement "I passed him my British passport, he saw my US visa inside and he said, “What do you do?”

Raza Suleman
Jul 09, 2013 05:33am

What a person. Who feels ashamed to be called a Pakistani. This article is not worth reading, spoiled my day. Id rather die of shame then hiding myself behind a false identity.

"to the Americans I look Mexican". “I’m Indian.”

I am a Pakistani and I love it.

Hamza
Jul 09, 2013 09:20am

I usually go to America because i am half-American, and i openly say that i am a Pakistani, although my grand-father is from New-Delhi.

Very few Pakistani's claim that they are Indians, and no there are shops too which are purely Pakistani, and I've seen shops that use "India & Pakistan" as their name.

They don't actually do anything when they hear about Pakistan, although I was stopped 2 times by the immigration officer, he asked me where did I go, I answered Pakistan, and then he asked why, I said to study and then I told him about my family and where I was heading in America and my studies.

The second time he asked me where did I go, where do I live, what school do I study, what are your parents job, what does you brothers and sisters do, have you even been to Afghanistan, have any of my relatives been to Afghanistan. That is it.

And I answered truthfully, and he let me go.