Indian comedian Zakir Khan talks all things comedy

The popular standup recently performed at a sold out Dubai Opera show

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Husain Rizvi

Published: Mon 5 Jun 2023, 4:59 PM

For all those wondering how Kunthal is doing, he is very good. It is hard to upset him, which is why he is always happy.

You’d know Kunthal only if you were at comedy sensation Zakir Khan’s sold out show at Dubai Opera in May.

For the uninitiated, Kunthal is a very good friend of Zakir. The comedian, during his two-hour gig, shared hilarious stories of the two, making the audience rave and reminisce about friendship between boys.

Zakir is not entirely new to huge crowds. The comedian has been performing in front of thousands since the last 7-8 years. So when we caught up with Zakir over a Zoom conversation, we asked whether humour comes to him naturally, or he has to work hard for it.

“It comes to me naturally,” he said. According to Zakir, there are people you don’t like. And when you don’t find a person funny, Zakir says, it is because you don’t like the person. “Likeability is greater than a joke,” he said. “So even when a joke is offensive, and you like that person, you will find it funny.”

Like most Indian comedians, Zakir’s gigs also center around his real life experiences. What if the comedian runs out of humorous encounters in real life, we asked. “I have lived a lot in this life,” the 35-year-old said. “Until now, I have only showed you a little portion of my life. I still have a long way to go and there of lots of stories left to tell.”

“Luckily, in my family, everyone loves to talk about things. I am also a frequent traveller, I have been travelling since 11. I also started performing at a very young age,” he added. “I have jumped a lot of social and financial classes, so in that sense I have a lot of experience and now is just the beginning.”

Zakir’s life as a comedian is going great. His only challenges, he says, are the bars created by himself; he constantly wants to up his storytelling game.

When Zakir was young, his grandfather taught him many things, one of which was how to become really good at something. “My grandfather used to say, ‘When you practice something, you should learn it in a way that even if you are asked to do it right after waking up, you excel in doing so,’” he said. “And I try to implement that in my comedy gigs.

“Now, I can be doing the most unlikely thing an artist can do before a show, and still walk on stage and deliver my best. I don’t prepare for a show, I prepare in life. All the content for my upcoming shows are being fine tuned in my head until it goes live.”

Crowd work is a massive plus when it comes to standup comedy. And while these are masters at work, there is usually a heckler who has to interrupt. “I think your audience is the reflection of the culture you have built around you,” said Zakir, adding that he has never had a bad experience with a crowd in recent years. “It was a problem when I started out, but it was bearable.”

Zakir feels the love his audience has for him is immense. “I don’t think they treat me like a comedian,” he said, “they treat me like a brother. And that is something beautiful.”

When it comes to cancel culture, which is so rampant in today’s day and age, Zakir tries to learn a lot about his audience, and what may trigger them. “I really respect people and understand where the outrage is coming from,” he said. “No joke is worth hurting somebody.”

And in Zakir’s gigs, the comedian is only narrating his real-life experiences, so that leaves less room for offensive jokes. “I am not giving any opinions,” he said. “I am telling my stories. I am telling you what happened with me; if you find it right or wrong, I cannot do anything about it because I am the one who has lived through it.”

Zakir’s latest special will be out later this year. Fans who witnessed him live at Dubai Opera will see new elements added to the show once it releases. Zakir has also appeared in TV shows and web series like Tathastu and Chacha Vidhayak Hai Hamare. “I never thought that we would get so much love for it,” he says of the show, available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Lastly, we know Zakir’s love for poetry; we’ve seen several of his poetry trending on social media. He credits his father who used to explain poems to him. “I had major interest in poetry from the beginning,” he said. “I feel blessed to have been born and brought up in an artistic family where I was surrounded by music and poetry.”

“Any art form which expresses human feelings is very dear to me,” Zakir concluded.

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