With bombs, assassinations and blasphemy laws, there’s not a lot to laugh about in Pakistan at the moment. But one comedian is hoping to change that — with the country’s first political satire show.
Saad Haroon is an Internet star — his recent parody of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman, Burka Woman (sample line: “I’ll go home and practice flirting/With my living room curtain”) has had nearly 200,000 hits on YouTube. And the 33-year-old, who has been a comedian for more than a decade, has already set up the country’s first improv group.
“I was sad, I was miserable, Sept. 11 had just happened and nothing was going well. So, I started training people. We rented out a basement, spread the word and e-mailed everyone we knew. The opening night was packed and we just kept going,” Haroon said.
“Pakistanis really, really appreciated it. If you think about it — these huge rooms full of people, and not a drop of alcohol and they really laughed,” he said.
The success encouraged Haroon to leave his day job at his father’s textile firm to write political satire. In a country where most writers are either starving or writing Urdu dramas to pay the bills, it’s a big risk. And not just for his career. Burka Woman has already earned him a few death threats.
However, Haroon is not deterred.
“It’s like every episode of every TV show in Pakistan at the moment is full of doom and gloom and horror, but Pakistanis don’t want to be depressed. If you give people an avenue to laugh, then they will,” he said.