FYIG recently had the chance to talk to comedian Danish Anwar about his new documentary, Stand Up Toronto, his roast show, Your Hood’s a Joke, and much more. Check out the full interview inside!
Tell the readers a little bit about yourself for those that may not know you.
Before coming to Canada, I spent most of my time in various developing countries. I was born and raised in Moscow (where I spent my childhood), then lived in Bangladesh and bounced around a bit until arriving in Toronto. And yes, Russia is a developing country. Fight me.
How did you get started in comedy?
I didn’t truly follow standup till I came to Canada. Being poor in poor countries meant I had other priorities. I got hooked after watching “Just For Laughs” reruns in between 16-hour shifts at a Toronto call center since Canadian poverty still comes with basic cable. Once I had a stable job I decided to take the plunge with a class at Second City and just kept going.
What are some of your biggest challenges as a comedian?
Being a political comedian in 2017 is a challenge in and of itself. People watch comedy to escape from the misery of daily life, and politics have been extra depressing lately. So, there’s an extra challenge in talking about a subject that everyone is trying their best to avoid. Plus, in today’s hyper divisive environment I’ve noticed a severe uptick in racial abuse (more than it was in 2012).
Are you ever afraid of creating controversy with a particular joke?
Not really. My material tends to be about controversial subjects, to begin with, and I like getting inside someone’s head and making them simultaneously laugh and think. I’m afraid of being boring.
Talk a bit about the roast show you produce called, “Your Hood’s a Joke”.
It’s the result of my own life experience. I’ve lived in five cities spanning three continents and traveled a fair bit aside from that. I noticed people aren’t that different no matter where they live. The number one sport on the planet is trash talking your neighbor, whether it’s the next block, next town or next country. Torontonians make fun of Hamilton, Hamilton likes roasting Burlington, all of Canada hates Toronto and so on. So, I turned that into a roast battle show and it became a smash hit almost instantly. 4 years later we have a TV pilot in the works, trying to sell the concept to other countries and planning a road show across the country.
You also did a documentary for TVO called, “Stand Up Toronto”. Tell us a bit about that.
This doc is about the experiences of comedians of colour and I can already feel some readers’ eyes rolling. Comedians have it rough already, between hecklers, online abuse, unstable income, hostile work environments and so on. Comics who are women or minorities face those same obstacles, plus the additional burdens of sexist/racist abuse from audiences in real life and online, or prejudices from significant parts of the industry that are still rooted in the 80s. This documentary did a splendid job of highlighting our struggles as well as our strategies, boosted with slick production values and a great soundtrack.
Which comedians influenced you and how?
Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and Stewart Lee influenced me the most. Chris Rock is unafraid to present a new idea, as opposed to commenting on an existing idea, plus I like his forceful delivery. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show taught me that political comedy can be funny and informative more than twice a year. Stewart Lee takes incredibly complicated subjects and reduces them to the simplest terms that anyone can understand.
What’s your favourite joke to tell?
A lot of comics, including me, get bored of their own jokes after a while. What gets us excited is generating a new original funny idea. My favourite joke is always the newest good joke I have. If we’re talking other people’s jokes, then all of Chris Rock’s gun control bits are my favourite.
How have you evolved as a comedian as your career has progressed?
My choice of subject matter has changed. Most (male) comics start their careers talking about subjects we think are “edgy” but in reality, have been done to death. It takes a while to find your own perspective on stage and get better at finding humorous subjects that interest you, as opposed to telling jokes you think people will like, or jokes with more shock value than humor.
What are your goals in comedy?
To be worshipped as an omnipotent god.
What projects are you currently working on?
Aside from “Your Hood’s A Joke”, I’m working on a few things:
- A cultural variety show (music, comedy, poetry) focused on Bengali artists living in the GTA, sometime during Spring 2018
- Co-producing the I Heart Jokes Awards, an annual award show celebrating standup comedians in the Toronto area.
- Creating a comedy festival called QUOTA, showcasing comedians of colour, fall of 2018
- Crafting 2 separate hour-long specials, so expect those to drop sometime after the nuclear apocalypse (Spring 2020)
What advice would you have for aspiring comedians?
Don’t let the bastards get you down.
Tell the readers where they can find you online.
You can follow me on Instagram & twitter @terrorsuspect.
Facebook fan page – facebook.com/peoplearetheworstdotorg
Websites – www.danishanwar.com and www.torontocomedyallstars.com