Faisal, Butts and other funny things.
Photo Credit/Stefan Bird
FRASER ALLAN-BEST: Do you see the Toronto stand up scene expanding?
FAISAL BUTT: When I moved to Toronto, things seemed to just pop off a little bit more. I moved here, I got my first half hour special, last year I won the SiriusXM Top-Comic contest and then that kind of steam rolled [sic].... I got to open for Russell Peters, I did the Montreal Just for Laughs and then there’s my show later this month for JFL42!
ALLAN-BEST: Your set has some focus on race, particularly your own Muslim identity.… Russell Peters … won’t just tell jokes about his own Indian identity, he’ll venture into any territory.... Is that something you are as comfortable doing…?
BUTT: Peters is very specific.... Coming from me, I talk about race but it’s more my perspective, not like, “Here’s what I think about German people,” whereas he can break each race down, y’know? He explains the difference between like, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese—and people are expecting that....
ALLAN-BEST: Would you ever consider that style, or do you plan to keep the racial tone that you have now?
BUTT: I might talk about my experiences with them, but my standup is … more personal.
ALLAN-BEST: So was race in your standup from pretty early on?
BUTT: I’ve since shaved, but I used to have a pretty crazy beard, so people are kind of waiting for me to acknowledge [my racial appearance,] to a degree. Now I’m shaved and I look a little bit more clean cut, and I’m trying to do a set that is not based on race at all, which is a little hard! I would love to do a set without having to be like, “Well, I’m Pakistani and I’m Muslim.”
ALLAN-BEST: You have said in previous interviews that you have been ready to leave comedy at several points, is that still on the table for you?
BUTT: Now that I have this baby, that’s kind of shifted my perspective, because I don’t really want to travel that much now cause she’s only like 6 [months] and my woman works.… I gotta be here for my daughter. Do I want to quit? Definitely not, because I still love it….
ALLAN-BEST: When someone sees you in your show, what’s the kind of impression you want to have on them?
BUTT: I just want them to enjoy the show, but I also … kind of want people to be like, I was there when he was getting his break. So … all of this is really exciting and new for me too.... I think watching me, even though I’m [a] Pakistani Muslim guy who drinks and smokes weed, I think people will still be like, I can relate to this guy. And I think that’s exciting for me too, … subverting those expectations.
ALLAN-BEST: Do you plan to keep that racial component of your act there?
BUTT: I think so, but I think my take and view on the whole race thing, it’ll still be a little bit fresh…. But someone like Aziz Ansari, … he’s doing stadiums now, he’s doing great, but ... you watch his standup and … [he] will [very rarely] … talk about race….
ALLAN-BEST: Your point would be he’s gotten over that?
BUTT: You wouldn’t be like, “Oh yeah I’m watching the Aziz show because it’s going to be racially charged….” You know what to expect from an Aziz show, whereas Faisal Butt you’re like, “Who is this guy?” … So naturally I’m going to bring up my race and talk about that. But just sort of as a stepping stone, because also people are like, “Oh this brown guy, he’s Muslim,” they’re going to essentially figure me out. But the more you listen to my act, the more you’re like, “Oh you know this guy’s NOT Muslim, he’s not what I’m expecting.”
ALLAN-BEST: Is a big part of it listening to other comics and getting a feel for the sort of voices that already exist and then kind of putting yourself in that context?
BUTT: Yeah, I think it’s important…. Every comic has a favorite podcast and different comedians will be on them. I just like listening to them speak, no pressure, just being naturally funny.... I think it comes out of like, as a comic, you just have to live a little and experience life. I think that really will kind of help and shape [your voice].… It would be weird if I never mention I have a daughter, that’s … really central to me right now, the most important thing happening to me right now. So obviously like, being a new dad, I’m going to talk a lot about that.