Stand-up the right game for Imran

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Yusuf Imran has to be one of the most exciting voices to come out of the UK.

The lanky stand-up comedian discusses topics that range from being a British Muslim (as opposed to being a Muslim living in Britain) to relationship woes and exactly why Spider-Man can wear a tight costume, spew a gooey white substance from his hands, then touch walls, but when he does it, it’s a problem.

As expected, his brand of comedy has taken him to many parts of the world and, next week, he’ll be in Cape Town as one of the headliners at the annual Vodacom Funny Festival that will be at the Baxter Theatre from Monday to July 8.

So what are the essentials a jet-setting comic needs to survive lengthy periods away from home?

“First, you have to be sane,” he chuckles on the line from his London home.

“You have to have a sensible head on your shoulders. What’s popular at festivals is that people waste their time getting drunk or taking drugs, but you have to understand that you are there to do a job.

“The second thing is that you have to exercise and eat healthily and make sure you’re moving around and not just on stage. And you also have to enjoy it – you’re a comedian! It’s a festival and the audience is there to enjoy themselves, but you have to also enjoy yourself and see other comedians perform, too.”

At this year’s Vodacom Funny Festival, you will be able to see Londoner Kev Orkian, UK speed painter Jon Hicks, Japanese comedians Gamarjobat and the finest in local talent including Kurt Schoonraad, Alan Committie, KG and more.

This upcoming visit will be Imran’s first time in SA so he hasn’t had a chance to see too many of our funnymen in action.

He does, however, say: “I’ve looked up some South African comedians and it’s funny because I actually know John Vlismas. I met him in Toronto, Canada, a few years ago and back then he’d said he would put my name out there in South Africa and I don’t know what happened afterwards, but here we are.”

But that’s not his only interesting connection with our continent. Imran was actually born in Mombasa, Kenya, but his parents moved the family to England when he was just a baby.

“I’ve since been back there,” he tells me. “I do actually have a few memories of Kenya. I was in Nairobi in 2002 and my gran was cooking for us. The most vivid memory I have is just being surrounded by family and how it feels like the whole town is related. Family is a great wealth to have.”

So is a career you’re passionate about.

Before being one of the most promising comedians and nominated for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, Imran was a games designer turned games tester.

“Something in my career went wrong and I got to be a tester,” he reflects, “which you think is going to be fun but it’s not because you are playing a game, systematically trying to break it. It’s an over-saturated vocation and there’s always someone wishing they could do your job and they’ll do it for lower pay.

“I had a passion for comedy and it gave me instant freedom. If you think you’re funny, all you have to do is get on stage and prove it.”

His time to show and prove to SA audiences will come next month and we look forward to it.

• The Vodacom Funny Festival takes place at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch from Monday to July 8. Tickets are R140 from Computicket.

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