Improv Comedy: Saad Haroon’s Agency

Published on March 14th, 2012

KARACHI: Saad Haroon, the man who introduced improvisational theatre in Pakistan and set the tradition of English stand-up comedy, is back with another extempore venture called The Agency. The comedian who was previously associated with troupes like The Black Fish and Shark says that this troupe cannot be compared to his previous ventures as the performances this time will be bilingual.

The name of the troupe itself is a pun at the belief of many Pakistanis that whatever good or bad happens in the country is the doing of a secret ‘agency’.

The Agency comprises of five artists in total, with Saad Haroon as the prompter and Ali Gul Pir, Syed Raza Arif, Syed Osama Sami and Sara Ashraf as the performers. Haroon and Pir have been doing stand-up for quite some time now, however the latter three are making their commercial debut with The Agency.

Pir, who has been doing improv for the past three years both in English and Urdu and has accompanied Haroon in a couple of shows, considers it a good opportunity. “Saad has his own following and that gives me a chance to perform in front of a bigger audience,” says Pir. “In my three years of improv theatre, I have learnt the most from Saad and I hope The Agency works out well.”

The other three younger members — all in their early twenties — are excited and nervous at the same time. Understandably so, as it is their first-ever commercial stage performance and expectations are high because it is under Haroon’s brand.

“If I am unable to crack good jokes in one rehearsal my whole day gets ruined and I hate myself for the day,” says Ashraf. The young talent is glad that her family didn’t put any restrictions on her, but what is making Ashraf the most nervous is that she realises she is the only girl in the group and this means she will have audience’s undivided attention on her. “I feel I have a huge responsibility because every female can relate to my jokes and I am the only one representing them in my group.”

Sami on the other hand owes a lot to his mentor — Sir Zeeshan Haider, who himself is a graduate of Napa and is teaching theatre at Szabist — for advising him to foray into this field. “Sir Zeeshan introduced me to improvisational theatre and then I never looked back,” says Sami “After acting in a few university plays I was introduced to Saad and today I feel I can take stand-up as a career.”

Arif, the third member of the troupe had to quit his job as writer in a leading news channel to dedicate himself to improvisational theatre. “I saw the performance of the Urdu improv troupe Aisa Karogay Tau Kaun Ayga (which later became the television show ‘Light on Hai’) and I was fascinated with spontaneous comedy right away,” recalls Arif. “Though it was difficult to manage things without a stable job, but I knew I could perform live on stage and now I am a part of The Agency.”

The Agency plans to perform every Sunday at the Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC) auditorium at 8pm and if people in the other cities show interest, then they will take the troupe all over Pakistan.

“It is not stand-up comedy, it is improvisational comedy. I want people to expect the unexpected because anything can happen,” says Haroon. “It would be great if people can join us every Sunday; we can all have fun together.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2011.

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