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The tale of a Dilli wallah

January 29, 2013

Stand-up comedian Saad Haroon performing at the PACC auditorium.–Photo by White Star.

KARACHI: It’s no joke laughing at yourself in order to make others’ laugh with you. It requires a fair degree of wit and a sharp understanding of how fine the line between quality and coarse humour is. (Click here for an exclusive interview of Saad Haroon with

It was a delight to witness standup comedian Saad Haroon put up a hilarious performance marked with intelligent and occasionally sensitive punch-lines in a show titled ‘Don’t worry, be Pakistani’ in the PACC auditorium.

Haroon began from the beginning, letting the audience know that it was the 10th anniversary of his career in comedy, a career that his father, a Dilli wallah, admonished him from joining because it had drugs and bad women (which confused him as to whether his father was convincing him to join the profession). His father wanted him to join his business and become a ‘businessman’.

At the age of 13 he started working at his factory and felt that the workers there had become his family because his father yelled at both him and them the same way. When he asked for wages, his father would say all he had was his (son’s). Therefore, what would he need a salary for.

The comedian carried on with the argument and touched on the textile industry. He said since textiles had to do with clothing people, it was the opposite of pornography.

Haroon, during the gig, also interacted and chitchatted with the audience. Upon knowing that one of the girls in the hall was single and was researching consumerism, he made quite a few off-the-cuff funny remarks. He said he never understood why girls would offer tea to their potential in-laws; instead they should bring stronger beverages like coffee or energy drinks to make their case more compelling. He reverted to his Dilli wallah father and said when things came to a pass, his father fired him and he became a comedian.

However, becoming a comedian was no cakewalk. When someone would ask him what he did for a living, he’d say he’s a comedian, and they’d remark: “What else do you do?” Then he asked another audience member about what kept him busy and the young man replied he was studying in Turkey, to which the comedian retorted “you get to see all those Turkish plays before they come to Pakistan.” This reminded him of his school days. He said he remembered class VII the most because he did it twice. “I was a bad student,” he confessed. When the Islamiat teacher once asked him about the five pillars of Islam, he answered they were faith, unity, discipline and the remaining two he had forgotten.

After that Haroon came to the topic of Karachi in particular and partition of the subcontinent in general. He said there was a time when parents warned their children against meeting strangers. These days they stopped them from stepping out of their house where strangers lived. On partition he mentioned that it’s time we put an end to discussing the justification for partition. He kept cracking jokes about the word ‘partition’ suggesting people took it lightly and then intelligently threw a line saying we got separated from India because we feared we’d be persecuted there as a minority; ‘we wanted a land where we could persecute our own minorities’.

The highlight of Haroon’s accomplished performance, in the eyes of this reviewer, was when he lectured on how in the days of yore boys at the age of 16 achieved bigger feats. Alexander won many a battle, Mohammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh, and “somewhere along the way 16 became sweet”. With reference to partition he said Mohammad Ali Jinnah was not just a great leader but a great lawyer, “the best divorce lawyer”.

‘Don’t worry, be Pakistani’ will continue until Feb 5.