Sunday, 27 February 2011

You can't make it up!

I am writing this blog on the train back to London after my first weekend at the Comedy Store in Manchester, because something hilarious has just happened that I want to share with you all and try to include into my set.

I got to Manchester Piccadilly Station and saw that the next train to Euston was leaving within one minute, I decided not to run to the platform and instead wait for the next one which was only about 15 minutes later. I purchased a healthy veggie baguette from Upper Crust and then made my way to my train, getting there early enough to secure myself a table and get my brunch set-up along with my laptop, so I could be creative and satiate my appetite. I was lucky to get a table, but that's what happens when you're the early bird. I checked the electronic display above the table and all seats were displayed as "AVAILABLE". Comfortable and smug, fortune had obviously smiled upon me today, all was good in my world.

Suddenly, a loud voice boomed from beyond the aether, a voice claiming to be the "Train Manager", he who control the dominion of the train, who sets it forth in motion for all mankind to traverse the rails and see the world (country). I couldn't see this "Train Manager", I could only hear his voice as he bellowed to those of us who dwell upon the passenger plane of the train, that the signs of "AVAILABLE" were false, a lie concocted by his arch nemesis, the diabolical electronic computer devil. The "Train Manager" warned us of a day when those with "Reservations" would appear, wielding divine tablets of right to their promised seats because they ascribed to the religion of the train and had chosen to buy their tickets online. As we trembled before the mighty booming voice of he who controls the train, I prepared myself for the event that I may be asked to leave my comfortable life at the seat, which I had sequestered myself into, enjoying the relative peace of a table and electric socket.

Then it happened...

...I had to give up my seat to a family of Hasidic Jews.

I almost burst out laughing, it was divine comedy genius at work. Sure, it would've been funnier if I were actually a Palestinian, but this is good enough for me. I thought about protesting and saying, "But I was here first" as witnessed by the other passengers, but sure enough the divine tablets of truth that are the tickets would prove otherwise when the booming voice told us that the reservation system was broken.

I'm now sitting in another part of the train, without a table or electric socket, along with all the other displaced passengers, in Hamas style talks... ;-p

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Beauty is skin deep, but happiness is as deep as your pocket

We all know how the media is blamed for creating and supporting unrealistic, shallow and pretentious standards of beauty that young girls are often enough duped into believing are normal via the various influences of print, TV, celebrities and peer pressure that lines the pockets of the purveyors of all things pretty. The fallout includes girls who may develop eating disorders, paranoia, ridiculous levels of envy or jealousy and in some unfortunate circumstances, a depression so severe that it puts lives in danger.

I've seen adverts for cosmetic surgery on the London Underground, almost exclusively aimed at women to entice any woman into various procedures at a reputable clinic in London. However, not everyone agrees with such advertising or of such a service and have gone to war defacing these adverts with stickers that discredit the nature of the advertising and somewhat trying to empower the women who might consider cosmetic surgery.

It's somewhat relieving to see such a response when you consider we live in constant bombardment of buying into unrealistic and pretentious standards of appearance if we are to expect being accepted by others and finding any love. I'm sure there are some who will attest to the benefits of such a service and how it transformed their lives for the better, but as with anything, moderation is always something to consider as extremes of even what you may think is a good thing can totally backfire. 

Amidst all this, the other side of the coin is often overlooked. Men too can be victims of unrealistic and pretentious standards of manly significance by the media. Where the concept of what is beauty, sexy and attractive is used to exploit women, the reasons to why beautiful women would want to be with men are set by the same agenda to exploit men in our quest to find a woman that will accept us.

In a nutshell, the media portrays examples in which a man must have wealth, resources or power as the primary and ultimate deciding factor that will decide as to his ability to "win the woman" that he desires and that in effect, beauty can be purchased. Before I further explain, take a look at the following and let's judge them at face value - 

Exhibit: A

The three examples above clearly show women who are "categorically beautiful" through both their genetics and cosmetic styling as the lawful wives and lovers of men that are clearly primarily regarded for their wealth, resource or power; traits which they have likely earned through hard work or obtained by inheritance. In an even smaller nutshell, money is power. At least that is the initial perceived value inferred by these examples. So, it at least appears to men that a hot woman is on the cards provided we can obtain the power of money. And so the first part of the brainwash begins...

In the pursuit of love, the examples of how to win a woman's love in Hollywood movies are as spectacular in concept as the special effects of the movies in which they are set.

Exhibit: B

Why does the sexy Megan Fox fall for the clumsy insecure boy Shia Labeouf in the film Transformers?
Was it his eloquent, charming and generous nature?

No, not at all. All the reasons are purely materialistic in which he gains power.

Like his flashy new car...

That just happens to be a transforming warrior alien robot from another planet that he's best friends with...

Never once in the film are the intrinsic values of love and trust developed between the characters whilst shot after shot of vehicle product placement gets in the way of a believable love story about the insecure nerd inside many men that manages to get all the action and poon he can get his sweaty paws onto after he stumbles into a intergalactic friendship which bestows upon him an amazing car and immense powers in the form of a team of robots.

The same formula is used in Spider Man, where another insecure nerd gets the girl. Not because of the virtue of his character, but because he has super powers. In reality, anyone with such a mutation would be dangerous to procreate with and it'd creep people out that they might sprout additional eyes and appendages to start resembling an arachnid, which invariably freaks girls out. But not in this case, because the super powered nobility of this masked hero, is an attractive quality.

Even in Superman returns, the relationship is between Superman and Lois Lane, not Clark Kent. Furthermore, in Superman Returns, it becomes apparent that Lois Lane carried Superman's child and then conned another man into raising him when Superman flies off into outer space on a sabbatical from playing a modern day Jesus in red pants. When he returns, he doesn't stick around to raise him, he leaves her with her idiot sap of a husband to raise a half-Kryptonian child that can impale people with pianos. Lois Lane would rather have sex with aliens than with humans and she is an irresponsible lying slag.

These are the examples set to men, these are the examples we are surreptitiously brainwashed with. Examples of incredible wealth and unrealistic powers to which we try to live up to in order to be good enough to have love in our lives from women who lust for nothing other than men who have wealth and power. Men are forever given a standard of extraordinary significance to try and achieve. And just when we get anywhere close to it, this ridiculousness happens...

Nowadays girls like these hunky vampires bad boys whose entire existence is based in the occult and the relative evil of youthful immortality at the expense of feeding on the fears and blood of others. Another level of impossibility to achieve, one definitely not worth trying to live up to, even if you get yourself a six pack, put on emo/goth makeup and bite a woman in the neck. Don't do it, seriously, just don't do it.

With all this falsehood, materialism and pretension rife in our society, can we let it go now please? Of course not, and as long as we let the concept of beauty and worth be controlled by a greedy agenda of brainwashers, we'll forever be at the mercy of advertising, fear and the price tags that come with our aspiration to be good enough.

Although, sometimes the magnificent and mysterious force that is life does something that makes you think that perhaps just love is all you need...

Love; it somehow manages to transcend all the manufactured concepts that society imposes us to believe in.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Apocalypse Now in Brum

Right now, Kai Humphries and I are sitting in the hotel bar of the Holiday Inn in Birmingham, witness to about 8 adults, all friends who have just had a massive domestic dispute about whose fault it was in getting them kicked out of a club they've just returned from.

Kai and I were enjoying a post-gig kebab in the hotel bar whilst watching a repeat of Harry Hill's TV Burp. All was going well as we laughed at Harry's antics and talked about comedy and life stuff, all was well in our world. Then, out of nowhere a group of people entered quite raucously and sat next to us, despite there being acres of space available. For some reason, peaceful people are magnets for belligerent bellends. The group have sat down and seemed to be okay for the most part, albeit a bit too loud and disturbing the peace Kai and I had been enjoying.

It's suddenly become apparent that they had been kicked out from a club for the particular actions of one of there group, which happened to be a girl. Now that the blame has been pinned on her, she flipped out at her friends in a torrent of pathetic adult emotional recklessness as her male friend shouted blame at her akin to the kind of domestic abuse reserved for straight-to-TV movies about muscly evil men and persevering women who choose the bad boy over the nice guy, because logic refuses to be absorbed by their 21st century maverick independence.

It's calmed down now, but it's ruined the fun Kai and I were enjoying, although we're laughing about it under our breaths, sharing cheeky looks at each other as it all escalated whilst I record the audio on my phone, tweet about it and blog about it on my laptop right behind them only a few feet away. Thanks to Gary Delaney for welcoming tweet - @kaihumphries @imranyusuf Welcome to Birmingham!

What I've learnt from this all is that adults might look different from children, but little actually changes in life as we just continue to succumb to other forms of emotional manipulation from wanting toys, friends and acceptance, to more expensive material trappings, more friends and more acceptance and recognition. And after this screaming and almost violent spectacle amongst drunken friends, it's apparent to me that human beings will fail to make the most of life, because the majority of emotionally insecure space cadets with no conflict-resolution skills other than shouting and fighting, will be keeping human progress stymied by about 400%, or at the very least ruining our peaceful post-gig kebab experience.

Human culling anyone?

Friday, 11 February 2011

All you have to do...

Gave up trying to be famous,
hit the road for a year and a half,
wrote Bring The Pain, job done.
I'm back in the grind, back to gigging across the country and sometimes beyond amidst writing for various projects and all the exciting things that come with the goal of trying to become "bigger than Chris Rock". I've got my work cut out for myself this year, I have to prepare a brand new hour for Edinburgh, a show in which I must deliver something special if I am to live up to all the hype of my last show, which was okay despite being void of an actual dinosaur impression or the infamous "Bollywood Jaws".

I love being a stand-up comedian, however, stand-up comedy is a business and I must deliver so that the arts trade fair that is the Edinburgh Festival puts me in the premium section of the comedy supermarket; a clever metaphorical retailer of humorous shenanigans whose description bodes well for the festival reviewer partial to the whimsical universe of badgers who have a penchant for jam products. The preceding sentence is an industry inside-joke, revealed to you by Wikileaks in an effort to subterfuge the pretentious insularity of those think they know it all.

Again, I love being a stand-up comedian, I love my craft because not only is it so much amazing fun to have a vocation to bring humour and joy to an audience, but also because being a stand-up comedian is intertwined into my own personal philosophy of having ambition and pursuing a dream that brings people together. Forever the naive optimist, even when I try to be negative or fall into bouts of pessimism, a hardwired reflex to secretly work hard and hope for the best overrides any evidence of the impossible and forces me to step forward into the unknown and do what I have to do. Because of this, I feel that I have truly found my calling. And apart from the set-up and punchlines, apart from the silly faces and animated flailing limbs of a body popping praying mantis, the jokes in my set are simple passing attractions upon a journey of a much more important vision that I want to share.

Ever get the sneaking suspicion that your life is not just for going to work, eating burgers and then dying?
I learnt from Anthony Robbins that all life does is grow. We grow and then we die, but in the journey of growth, there are so many amazing things to experience and share, that embracing this is the source of true joy in life. Like the plants that adorn this planet, sustaining the food chain and permitting us to breathe clean air, we too must flourish by embracing our purpose. The fortune of the human being is the consciousness that inquires into the possibilities of how we can sculpt our lives and and our world. It appears though that very few of us choose to have this perspective, instead falling into line of the system in which we learn to regurgitate facts from text books, go to work to make just enough money to live from, whilst the system skims off your efforts and then takes those profits and does as it pleases with them, like building a moat around an MP's house or funding a war with combatants that it armed in the first place. Perhaps Qui Gon Jinn should've left Anakin on Tatooine.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist... that's just a paranoid rumour...
We all have a ambition, we all have passion, often kept secret from others for fear of ridicule that our dreams will be the subject of a mockery that actually says more about someone else's lack of vision than about our own chances of success. I've found my calling, the vocation in which I can communicate everything I want to share with everyone else, that also allows me to tackle subjects that otherwise prove useful fodder for polarising agendas to divide and conquer the whole of society. I know this sounds naive, but I am reminded that the greatest triumphs of personal endeavour and global inspiration started in a single mind and heart until it transcended the insurmountable obstacles of disbelief and opposition to ultimately permeate the very souls of the many and irrevocably transform the very paradigm of possibility to all of mankind. I am but a mere comedian, but I have been inspired by incredible individuals who stared adversity in the face. Weakened and at a disadvantage, yet they came out enormously victorious and set an example for the rest of us. I've been inspired by the examples of various remarkable individuals, whose biographies I highly encourage that you read -

Poor boy with a big broken nose from a poor family
 who sold him into an opera school, he went on to
pioneer comedy martial arts.
Triple cancer, was expected to die, refused to lose and beat the Tour de France seven times in a row by the biggest margin in history.
Learnt to read and write in jail and copied out the entire dictionary by hand to improve his vocabulary.
Took the NOI to the premiership, then left them. He wanted to build bridges with the rest of society,
they assassinated him.
During times of exploitation and genocide, mere individuals fought for civil rights, protection and education. Outnumbered and underpowered, whatever they lacked, they made up for in spirit, a spirit that has embossed upon our society the freedoms we take for granted today and a lesson of how to overcome tyranny with patience, passive resistance and civil disobedience that disrupted the systems that tried to impose something upon us that would never benefit the greater purpose of our lives on this planet. Governments have changed, hearts and minds have been won, and it all started out with a greater belief to forge a better world.

A ninja will show his true strength
when he has to protect the ones he loves.
To finally conclude, all I want to share with you is that you must flourish, you must tap into the incredible source of vision that exists within our innermost desire to attune with the greater purpose to blossom into our true nature as artists of living. We must flourish, each and every one of us must flourish, or we all collectively will perish. The power of change is not exclusive to politicians or the military, because although the powers that be can physically prevent and even eliminate individuals and groups, no force in the universe has power to stop the very ideas, dreams and beliefs of a better way that reside within the flesh and blood vessel of this human vehicle in which our consciousness resides. We must educate ourselves better to embrace this new life in which we become fearless as we step forward with the overriding courage of change. If this is all still too ambiguous, come to check out my new show in Edinburgh because if there is any one thing I want to say in my life, it'll be in that hour show. Roll on August 2011, just don't rain everyday please, K, THX.

You don't have to understand the lyrics, just watch this video and you'll feel the power!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

"Multiculturalism has failed"

This past weekend, David Cameron spoke at the Munich Security Conference where his comments were reported succinctly as "Multiculturalism has failed" to the supportive reception from the EDL who were staging their biggest protest to date in Luton on the same day with their army of fear-exploited shopping trolley thieves and the brown mascot affectionately known as "EDL Abdul" whose identity behind closed doors of the EDL's non-racist manifesto is known to be "that stupid paki". On the other hand, many found Cameron's statement on multiculturalism somewhat suspect and perhaps illustrates his own lack of understanding of Britain's actual day to day diverse cohesion by normal people and the obvious absence of him having any actual Black friends. You know, we all have Black friends, I bet you have one called Dwayne, whom you've always wanted to tell has a passing resemblance to Lenny Henry but have failed to do so for fear of looking like a racist. Look here's mine -

My friend Dwayne
Lenny Henry
Multiculturalism is a political buzzword these days, often used to illustrate the diverse array of arts, craft, cuisine, traditions and hot girls we'd like to 'tap that ass' of. However, these days the word is often used to describe the breakdown of communities where different factions fail to integrate and get along with each other and then kick off to give more weight to the notion that groups of Muslims are conspiring towards a mass suicide bombing of a western establishment of debauchery where the upstanding mothers and fathers of tomorrow lay the foundations of their future relationships by conceiving their children in toilet cubicles or the backseat of a Polo. The truth is simple and it is this -

In our society, there is a significant number of idiots who react and reason almost exclusively with immature emotions that are prompted by fear. These epic failures of human specimens are dangerous because they will use anger and violence to make their mark and get their way. Whilst the rest of us pussyfoot around with our intelligence, patience and reasoning, naively believing our superior knowledge and understanding can prevent the impact of a punch, molotov cocktail or bomb. Far be it from me to recommend that a calculated selection process be exercised as to who remains in civilised society, but you see, the government needs these nut jobs to maintain control by dividing society with an atmosphere of fear to push various agendas in which the general population is exploited to make the rich even richer. I'm not saying there is a massive global conspiracy to control the world using fear to gain profit for an elite few, but it's true, just ask David Icke, Alex Jones or Jesse Ventura.

More importantly though, multiculturalism is the same word has been bandied around reviews of my solo show "An Audience with Imran Yusuf", it's about me; Imran Yusuf, and I have an audience with whom I share my act, largely about my experiences with identity in this dynamically polarised world of labels of which I have never fit in anywhere as 'normal', being afraid of girls and my paradigms of spirituality and all that kinda stuff. Thanks to the favourable reviews and Edinburgh nomination for this show in which my name plays a massive part, I was offered many new opportunities including a few parts on Charlie Brooker's new TV show "How TV Ruined Your Life", a show which exposes the truths behind the filthy agenda of many TV shows. I was really excited to work with Charlie and be on his show, especially since GamesWipe spoke to me as a gamer in a way untouched since Dominic Diamond's sarcasm made Games Master's celebrity challenges bearable to watch. Except that time Dave Perry got upset over the Super Mario 64 challenge in which he lost to a journo, that was hilarious.

How TV Ruined Your Life - I sat in a room with three other women and I'm the only one who got a word in. Just sayin'
My debut on How TV Ruined Your Life was cool, a fleeting scene in which I say "Yeah, that's a weird bruise", I now look forward to the rest of the series in which more of my comedy acting can be seen. Proud of myself and all the hard work that it took to get this far in this dream to become a comedian, I then saw the credits scroll and lo and behold my name spelt incorrectly!

Who is Imran YUSEF? Never has my last name ever been spelt with an "E", but for some reason it's an easy mistake to make, what with the plethora of resources available to check such an unimportant detail like someone's name. Maybe I'm overreacting, I mean how important is my name really? I mean how hard was it for that last "U" to be converted into an "E" when al the contractual paperwork contained the correct spelling for my name and that the poster for my solo show displays my name in idiot-proof capitals.

When I started out as a comic, my name was often misspelt and/or I was introduced by the compere as one of the following - Imran Khan, Yusuf Imran, Yusuf Islam, and last weekend during a small gig in Wadhurst, as Joe Rowntree. Maybe it doesn't matter, I mean, I'm not Dara O Briain or Omid Djallili. But after working so hard all these years pursuing a dream to make up for my academic failures and having been denied my efforts to become the next Shigeru Miyamoto, to see my name spelt incorrectly is a lovely kick in the face to remind me that I'm still an insignificant nobody who was kicked out of two GCSEs and then left to defend myself from muggers at bus stops everyday after school.

So maybe multiculturalism has failed, maybe I should change my name and eat a bacon sandwich.
<Storms off in a silent indignant rage>

PS - This blog post is light-hearted mockery and not a genuine rage-induced diatribe. However, stay tuned and in no time you'll see this headline -
"Muslim comic Imran Yusef slams TV execs in racism row". That's the headline the newspapers want to write.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Advice for comics

Newer comics often ask me for advice and how to get gigs. Also, since I've gigged out across the big pond in Canada before, I often have Canadian comedian friends hopping across in our direction to do gigs in the UK. So here is what you need to know to get you started.

It's advisable to book gigs well in advance, preferably six months to one year. Get a piece of paper and a pen, and plan your gig list in advance. Put your business head on for this, you need to be organised.

Here is a list of open mic clubs to email or call. Some gigs only deal with phone calls, so if you're overseas, you'll have to make the most out of an international phone call or Skype.

Laughing Horse Comedy Club
This is where I started off, the Laughing Horse run open mic rooms in almost any available space you can put a mic in. There's a number of these clubs in London and some outside of the big city too.

Comedy Cafe (New Act Night)
The Comedy Cafe is a great club and every Wednesday they have a New Act Night, where the winning act is given a paid 10min spot the following week as a way to move up the roster.

Comedy Store (Gong Show)
You MUST CALL during the week day to book yourself into the Gong Show, which is held on the last Monday of every month. If you do well, you may be offered an open spot.

Soho Comedy Club
Soho Comedy Club's open mic and new material night is Mondays. The Thurs/Fri/Sat shows don't have open mic spots. The Mondays though you don't even really need to book that far in advance for. In general the spots are allocated first come first served on the door on the night but if you're coming a long way or hoping to double up you might want to get in touch the promoter first via their site.

Lion's Den Comedy Club
Lovely club for new comics to start in.

Downstairs at The King's Head
0192 082 3265
You MUST CALL to book an open spot but ONLY between 9am - 11am (Mon-Fri). Once you book it, do NOT be late for this gig! If you do well, you'll be booked again and when appropriate offered a spot on the weekend gigs. This is a great gig that has a regular and very comedy-savvy audience.

Mirth Control
Sign up to the diary room and reply to the weekly email that goes around.

Also, here is another blog with a list of many more gigs-

Enter all the comedy competitions you can BUT treat them as gigs, do NOT focus on winning. There is much more than just getting the biggest laughs on the night that decides who goes through in any competition. Just do your best, you'll get seen and you'll build your profile.

Go and do it, you'll learn loads, it's like an intensive training ground for comics. It takes some investment of time and money to make it worthwhile but a great way to do it in case you don't have a fortune is to go with the Laughing Horse Free Festival, which is what I did for three years in a row -

I could go on forever here, but I'll keep it concise, just use your common sense and remember that stand-up comedy is a business like any other and so conduct yourself professionally.

* Keep your emails CONCISE. A link of your act on YouTube preceded by a polite introduction is enough. Bookers are busy people, make it easy for them. If you don't get an answer, do NOT repeatedly email and call. Give it some time, build your profile on the circuit some more.

* Just gig, seriously, just get out there and gig, that is all.

* Be resourceful! Any questions that you have that can be answered by a simple Google search is the best way to find what you need and get on with it.

* Be nice, seriously, just be nice.

* Ultimately, take your time in your ambition to become a stand-up comic, it's not a race, it's a marathon. Take your time, learn from your mistakes, pay your dues, gig as much as humanly possible. Don't concern yourself with anyone else's progress other than your own, this is your journey and it'll take as long as it takes, just make sure you're enjoying it.

I hope this helps, good luck and remember -