Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Aatif Nawaz: Muslims Do It 5 Times A Day

By | Published on Tuesday 3 November 2015

The highly likeable and very talented Aatif Nawaz impressed our reviewer in Edinburgh this summer with his thoughtfully put together show focusing on Western misconceptions about Islam, and it’s not something I’d like you Londoners to miss. Luckily for you, a few dates over at that there Musem of Comedy are imminent.

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I put some questions to Aatif, to find out more about the show, his career, and what it’s like making jokes about these sensitive issues.

CM: Tell us about the show, and the issues you cover in it.
AN: ‘Muslims Do It 5 Times A Day’ is my favourite piece of work. It’s not my first. It’s not even my first comedy show. But it’s the first time I’m saying something important about my faith. Prior to this show, I’ve focused more on throw-away gags and ‘light-hearted entertainment’. This time around, I’m talking about the hypocrisy of cultures and the growing divide between Muslims and non-Muslims, particularly in the UK. It’s all about taking down Islamophobia – one joke at a time.

CM: Our Edinburgh reviewer saw the show and said “I had been entertained, but had also learnt something important” – is it your intention to educate? Who is is the set aimed at?
AN: The show is for everyone, but I think Non-Muslims get more out of it. The idea is to build a bridge between Muslims and Non-Muslims, destroy some cultural myths with everyone in the same room. The idea wasn’t necessarily to educate, but to remind people about basic humanity – and how we’re all very similar, regardless of our preferred faith, ideologies or football teams.

CM: What made you decide on that title?
AN: It makes me chuckle, it pushes the envelope a bit. It sounds like it might be offensive or crass, but it’s actually just a statement of fact. Muslims pray 5 times a day, but because people tend to be so defensive now, everyone assumes the worst. It’s nice to play with that expectation straight off the bat.

CM: Is it hard to joke about potentially very serious stuff…? Do you ever get a negative response to dealing with these topics with humour…?
AN: Absolutely. From both Muslims and non-Muslims, but these are rare. Generally, people find the show to be a useful bit of marketing for Muslim/Non-Muslim relations. And I always stipulate, these are just my opinions. It’s just one man’s take. I’m not a scholar. But I have an opinion and I’ll try and express it in the funniest way possible.

CM: How did you get into comedy? What made you want to be an entertainer?
AN: I’ve always loved entertaining. But it’s weird, as I get older, I tend to get more dull off the stage and obscenely excitable and energetic on stage. Maybe I’ve just learned to channel that jokey energy.

I first got into stand-up comedy by chance. A friend needed me to fill in at a music show. His CD crashed just before the show show started and he needed me to keep the audience entertained while be burned a new one (this is back in the day when CDs took 45 minutes to burn). I loved it. And just chased the feeling. Googled open-mics, eventually hosting my own open-mic night for several years and working my way up. It’s always a privilege though. To be standing in a room with a microphone in your hand and be the designated entertainer for whom people have (hopefully) bought tickets. What a feeling!

CM: You have also done quite a lot of TV and film work, haven’t you? Do you prefer that to live work?
AN: I’ve been very lucky – I’ve been able to experience a lot of cool stuff. And I still enjoy presenting on TV or acting in films. But my first true love will always be comedy. There is NOTHING that compares to the buzz of being on stage. To have that instant reaction from an audience.

CM: What do you hope the future holds for you?
AN: I’m writing the next show right now. It’ll be a little different. Without giving too much away, I’ll be debuting it at the Leicester Comedy Festival in February. But this year has been great for me. I had a wonderful summer in Edinburgh, done my first stand-up on TV and my friends don’t hate me yet for never turning up to stuff because I’m gigging.

CM: What imminent new projects do you have coming up?
AN: I’m going to Pakistan this December where I’ll be performing three shows. I’m also working on another secret project which will hopefully re-unite me with Stephen Fry. Watch this space…

Aatif Nawaz performs ‘Muslims Do It 5 Times A Day’ at Museum Of Comedy from 6-8 Nov. See this page here for tickets and info.

LINKS: www.museumofcomedy.com | www.aatifnawaz.com | twitter.com/AatifNawaz



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