After two years of not gigging live, what were the chances of two gigs coming along at the same time, like buses?
I cannot lie, I was nervous. I had the same dilemma that many comedians do when they have not performed live for a long time. Do you use tried and tested material which you know works or do you try new work, which you think could be funny but might not be, and end the restart of your comedy career?
The promoter of the gig described me as the leader of the older comedy folk, putting a different slant on my performance. I could afford to be different, not talk about what young comedians talk about. But would people be interested? Would they laugh or would I be laughed off?
This was not an open mic – people were paying money to see us. With that comes responsibility. Plus I had two new friends, who I had made during lockdown on social media, the ones I mentioned in my last blog, who were coming to see if I was as funny in real life as I was on Twitter.
A lot of my early comedy sets were about identity with being asked that age-old question, “Where are you from?” “No, where are you really, really from?”
I felt it had to be addressed when I first started stand-up, as I realised that I confused people. Having brown skin comes with its own assumptions, people expect an Asian accent but out comes the Scottish brogue. “Your face doesn't match your voice,” said the American at a conference in the days when we went there in person. How I miss those work trips to the south of France, or that’s what it said on my tax return!
So I filled an obligation to talk about my identity, to make people feel comfortable that they knew my heritage and could laugh at my jokes. I learned that from my first ever gig. People want to place you, want to put you in a box, it makes them feel comfortable. And if they are relaxed, they can enjoy themselves. Fear of the unknown can lead to fear of laughter.
There are not many Pakistani females of a certain vintage on the comedy scene, certainly not in Scotland. Having pandered to what the audience wanted in the past, I decided I wanted to be myself. To talk about my life, including my first ever comedy gig and share my thoughts as a mother on the dating scene. Yes, it was risky. I hadn't told the story out loud about my first ever comedy gig, but so much about comedy is confidence on stage. I have no problem standing up, it's being funny that can be the problem!
So I took the audience through my highs and lows and my trials and tribulations of the night when I performed my first ever comedy gig. How the stand collapsed in my hand when I took the mic out. How I forgot what I was going to say two minutes into the set; feeling like I had been thrown into the colosseum, with the lions desperate for some blood; the audience’s heartbeats racing in time with mine.
What do I say? The audience waited for my next words. So I said the first thing that came into my head.
“You do know I am from Pakistan.”
And at the end, they laughed - both audiences. Tick box.
Moral of story: be true to yourself. People will laugh and love you for being you.
Lubna is next on stage at venues across northern England from 6 April to 9 May as part of the highlights rural touring scheme: http://highlightsnorth.co.uk/event/tickbox/