A Pakistani-born comic's account of how he sought salvation in stand-up comedy and then found a new home in Australia.
Growing up in Karachi, a city bloodied by political violence, Shah spent most of his youth “reading, drawing comic books and masturbating.” The first time he left Pakistan was in the late 1990s when he came to the United States to attend college, major in English, and dream of becoming “Pakistan’s answer to Stephen King.” Never especially religious, Shah became a practicing Muslim after 9/11. But when he returned home, he found that the Islam he believed was anything but a religion of peace and promptly turned atheist. “My life would have been a lot easier if I’d just gotten an earring and done some drugs,” he writes. After a stint in advertising that led him to “a deep existential crisis,” Shah found his way into journalism, a career he thought would help him make sense of the “bomb blasts, suicide attacks, gun fights [and] assassinations” that were part of daily life in Pakistan. Witnessing so much bloodshed had the added effect of eventually pushing the author into comedy. He joined an improvisational comedy troupe that earned a devoted following in Karachi and accolades at a Manchester theater festival. Shah later went on to produce, direct, and host a short-lived news satire show called News Weakly. After the show was cut, he left journalism and returned to advertising while continuing to hone his craft. Determined to find a better life, Shah and his wife moved to Australia. There, he not only found the freedom to practice his art, but also became part of the growing national debate about the place of political refugees in Australian society. The narrative is refreshing for its openness about religion, sexuality, and politics, topics that, for the most part, are taboo in the Islamic world. Honest and inspiring, Shah’s book is a reminder of how laughter is not only necessary, but also life-sustaining.
Humor at its most vigorous and unsparing.