Getting Candid With Zakir Khan
Zakir Khan, winner of Comedy Central’s hunt for Best Stand Up Comic of India, got candid with Insider before his multi-city Red FM Tour. We bring to you the best snippets of a man popular for his rustic humour.
As we wait for Zakir Khan, who is busy with the edit team of his next video (we also get a sneak-peak at it), he turns around and looks at our reactions. He then asks sheepishly, “Kaisa laga aapko?” We grin, knowing that it’s going to be hugely popular with his fans. He joins us five minutes later, with an expectant look on his face and that’s where we start our conversation with Zakir Khan - a child at heart, a comedian by nature, a writer by profession and a performer by birth.
Insider: Tell us a little about your family background
Zakir: My family is from a hardcore musical background. They’re all classical Indian musicians and I have been raised with music. To have a ‘paid job’ in my family is a sin that you just don’t commit. I made so many changes in my career choices that eventually my parents said, “Jail mat jaana, bas.”
As we laugh and wonder if we should ask him if he has ever been to jail, Zakir goes on to tell us how he’s had to lie to his family to pursue what he wanted and no, it wasn’t stand-up comedy. It was his dream of working with radio.
Insider: What jobs have you done before becoming a full time stand-up comedian?
Zakir: I always thought I’d be great at Radio. I have the humour but I don’t have the face (he winks and ruffles his hair as he says this). Radio seemed to be the obvious choice. I struggled for a good two years for this. I didn’t talk to my family. I lied to them. Eventually I stayed with radio for 6 years in Delhi.
Insider: Talking about Delhi, here’s the controversial question everyone gets asked: Bombay or Delhi?
Zakir: Delhi. That city has made me who I am today. When I entered Delhi, I came in a local train with money that my mom forced into my hand. When I left Delhi for Mumbai, I travelled in the Business Class of a flight. From the local train to that business class ticket, sab mein Dilli main bana hoon.
Insider: When did you know you wanted to be a stand-up comedian?
Zakir: I was always inclined to stage shows. My first musical performance with the sitar was at the age of 7. My first stand-up show was much later when I graduated from college. My first professional stand-up show was at a little club in Delhi. I was given 2 minutes to perform. I didn’t even last 40 seconds before I was booed off the stage.
Zakir eventually moved to Mumbai and had a job with a fixed salary. Stand-up comedy was something he pursued on the side. He didn’t give up his job until he knew that stand-up comedy was earning him enough money to pursue this. His philosophy is simple. Don’t give up living for your passion. Make a living out of your passion.
Insider: Who are your biggest influences?
Zakir: I was not a funny kid. Humour is something I learned to survive in a boy’s school. I understand the construct of a joke, I understand emotions and I understand how the two intertwine to make people laugh. As far as influences go, I listen to everyone from East to the West. CK, Omar Sharif, Abdullah Khan – all these artists are brilliant and I enjoy their brand of comedy.
Insider: Does being desi give you an edge?
Zakir: It does now but that’s not how it started! It took a lot of struggle and persistence to get here. But my dad always said that, “Everyone and everything has a time. Believe in what you do and when your time comes you’ll be a pioneer.” My time has come. I’ve not particularly changed my style of comedy but I’m being appreciated for it now. People have to come to identify with my brand of humour.
Zakir goes on to tell us that women are understandable after all and you just need to know how to read them. As the male members of our team bestow Zakir with a look of godly reverence, he smiles and says it’s all about emotions and your ‘pakad’ on them. The Insider team finally signals that it’s time to move to lighter conversations and with Zakir visibly more relaxed, we ask him a few more questions.
Insider: Which is your dream destination to do a live performance?
Zakir: Madison Square Garden and a performance in English!
Insider: Do you think radio is a powerful medium?
Zakir: Of Course. No other medium has the power to make you dig deep into your memories the way radio does. When you hear a song unexpectedly, it brings out out a wave of emotions and nostalgia. Neither TV, nor YouTube, nor podcasts would ever be able to match it.
Insider: If not stand-up comedy or radio, what would’ve been your go-to profession?
Zakir: I’d probably be a writer or a sitar teacher at a school
Insider: What would be the name of your film?
Zakir: I actually did write a play in college. It was called ‘Compromise.’ At that time, tag-lines were all the rage so I’m not proud to admit it but errr, I had a tag-line too. Compromise – Every champion is a loser inside. I’m not very proud of it.
As we laugh with the man who is now ruffling his hair again, we thank him for his time. Zakir Khan smiles at us and says, “I’m sorry, I know I go off-topic a lot.” We can’t help but smile back at the half-apology, half-ruefulness and nod our heads as we think that this man surely knows how to charm any audience.
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