As far as Muslim stand-up comedians go America has some big hitters, with the likes of Hasan Minhaj, Maz Jobrani, Azhar Usman, Dave Chappelle, Preacher Moss, Aasif Mandvi, Aziz Ansari, and many others. Britain also has its fair share of up and coming Muslim comedians such as Tez Ilyas, Imran Yusuf, Aatif Nawaz, Prince Abdi, Shazia Mirza, Adil Ray (aka Citizen Khan), Humza Arshad (aka Diary Of A Bad Man), Ahir Shah (who was recently featured in the Guardian), and again many others.
Another name to add to this British list is that of Ghulam Khan, better known as Guz Khan, Guzzy Bear, or Mobeen (a comedy character he sometimes plays who is a somewhat typical Muslim living in Small Heath, Birmingham). Khan really came to prominence in June 2015 when, whilst performing as Mobeen, he made a video expressing mock outrage at the apparent use of the racial slur “Paki” (short for “Pakistani”) in the 2015 film Jurassic World. He called for a boycott of the film when one of the lead characters Vivian, played by Lauren Lapkus, shouted “the Pachys are out of containment” (the Pachys in this case being dinosaurs of the type pachycephalosaurus).
In the video Khan recounts a recent awkward trip he and his friend took to the cinema to watch the film. He also raised the point that the phrase could sound exceptionally racist to the untrained ear. Unexpectedly the video went viral. Within six days it was watched over 340,000 times on YouTube and over 700,000 times on Facebook. After the newspaper the Birmingham Mail publicised the story Khan was interviewed by radio stations as far and wide as the United States and Indonesia. Here’s the video in full:
More recently Khan has created a four-part television series called Man Like Mobeen for the BBC. It was released on BBC iPlayer in December 2017. Such is his popularity that the series is scheduled to make its terrestrial TV debut this weekend, straight after the football show Match Of The Day on Sunday evening.
In the series Khan again plays the role of Mobeen, the 28-year-old Muslim from Birmingham “who has a job, doesn’t know any terrorists, is pretty excellent when it comes to social skills and…maybe, just maybe, dealt drugs for a little bit.” He goes on to say that “Mobeen epitomises the funny yet complex realities of life for young working class men and women in Britain today. Inner-city Birmingham, in which the show is set, gets almost no positive representation in the media. Man Like Mobeen will at the very least give a ‘real’ depiction of life in the ends.” I have yet to see these four episodes, so no doubt I will be talking about them at a later date.
Also, on the last day of last year, the BBC aired the stand-up comedy programme Live At The Apollo. Performed at the Hammersmith Apollo Theatre in west London, this particular episode of the show (series 13, episode 5) saw Guz performing alongside fellow comedians Henning Wehn and Lucy Porter. The performance most definitely marks Khan’s arrival in the British mainstream comedy scene. Below is the performance, along with some of the transcript. Enjoy!
Let’s, ugh…Let’s lighten the mood a little bit. Let’s talk about terrorism. Terrorism…
Listen, one of my main issues with terrorism is simple, right. It’s got people that have known me my entire life doubting my credibility, all right? It’s a mad thing…And I will let you know, all right, you guys are a little bit worried at the moment. I’ll make it explicit for you. I am not a member of Isis, all right? I’m not, OK? I’ve nothing to do with those people, I don’t follow their ideology. That’s cos I’ve got six months left on my Al-Qaeda membership. I’m loyal…
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Where did they go!? My gosh!
One of the worst things about terrorism is how it’s got people doubting my credibility, people I’ve known my whole life, all right? I want to give you an example. I’ve got a neighbour, OK? She’s called Maud, she’s known me for 27 years. And because of the media narrative, the way that the media portrays Muslims, minorities, Black Lives Matter…the world is very divisive. Who in this room just wants to live and get along? Make some noise.
Exactly, we all want to, all right? But the media has got people doubting me, all right? So, I’ve had my neighbour 27 years, we’ve got a…It’s a nice, simple thing, it’s a neighbourly thing to do, all right? A regular Friday wheelie bin ritual. We grab the wheelie bin, drag it down to the end of the driveway, have a quick natter, go back in. It’s what neighbours do, innit? It’s what neighbours do, all right?
This particular Friday, Maud is like clockwork, but she was late. And I’m thinking, “Is Maud OK? I hope she’s all right, usually she’s like…”
The bin was stinking of shit but I thought, “You know what, I’m going to stay here, I’m going to be a good neighbour and have this conversation.”
Three minutes later, boom! She kicks open the door, she’s stressed, she’s flustered. I said, “Maud, is everything OK?”
She says, “No! No, Guz, everything is far from all right. Have you seen the news?”
I’m like, “Listen, Maud, a lot of my cousins are on there, I don’t watch that shit, you know that…It brings back a lot of bad memories for me, Maud.”
She says, “Guz, it’s the Izis.”
I-Z-I, she’s from Birmingham, that’s how she spells it. “It’s the Izis. They’ve been doing terrible bloody terrorisms again, them lot.”
I was like, “Listen, that’s bad, I don’t agree with those people and, you know, I hope they’re brought to justice.”
She says, “You say that, Guzzy, yeah, but you’ve got to tell me something, babes. You’re nothing like them, are you?”
I said, “What? Maud, you’ve known me 27 years, baby, I’m nothing like them, stop buying into the media narrative, stop buying into the news, I’m me, Guz, your neighbour.”
She says, “I know, I know you say that, it’s just that from very specific angles…”
“…it’s a very Bin Laden look you’ve got going on there.”
I said, “Hey! I don’t even look like that guy. Very racist!”
She says, “Guz, I know, I’m just being silly, I’m just being silly, but you just do me one more favour, though, babes, OK? It’s just more for my Rod, really, yeah? If you hear anything about it before the news does, just let me know.”
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Live At The Apollo, what does Maud think is going on here? That all Muslims are in one WhatsApp group? Because, blud…that’s a very big WhatsApp group! That’s 1.8 billion participants, to be specific. That’s a lot of blue ticks to keep hold of.
“Imran, Imran are you there, bro?”
Which Imran am I addressing? There’s 33 million Imrans in the group!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Guys, I’m out. My name’s Guz Khan.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Thank you. You lot need to…I’m a confident guy, I’m a confident guy, you need to remember the name, guys, cos I’m going to blow up. Not like that, you pricks. Say Guz Khan, thank you!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
– Guz Khan, from the BBC comedy show Live At The Apollo