Faiza Saleem is one extraordinary your woman! Starting off her professional journey as a lawyer, she is now a full-time comedian. From corporate shows, branded videos to award shows, her presence is felt everywhere. Her own Facebook page regularly produces videos which have a wide reach. It is very inspiring to see a young woman take an unconventional path to pursue her dreams and succeed at it. We at Ink recently had the pleasure of interviewing Faiza. Below are the excerpts of our conversation:
I was born and raised in Karachi as the youngest of four siblings. After doing my O & A levels, I did my bachelors in law which I practiced for a year before taking up comedy full time.
2. When did you realize you could make people laugh? Is there something about your upbringing that led you to this profession? How supportive has your family been of your unconventional choices?
When I started performing, I used to do more serious roles until I did a play in 2011 where I improvised a line which was funny and the whole auditorium burst into laughter and applause. That night it hit me real hard that I can make people laugh – in a good way. Maybe being the youngest gave me a lot of freedom to be myself and follow my heart. By the time parents come to the fourth child, they’re like ‘okay, that’s it. We give up.’ Obviously, I had to convince them to let me do things I wanted to do but there was not a lot of drama.
3. Are you pursuing comedy as a full-time career? Do you think there is enough scope in Pakistan for comedians?
Yes I am. There is enough scope for anything and everything if you work smart, hard and with heart.
4. You are also the founder of The Khawatoons, Pakistan’s first all-girls comedy troupe. Can you please give us an overview of the group? Where all have you guys performed so far and how has the response been?
There are about six to eight members in the troupe. Some of them are permanent and others come on and off. We have been performing for a year now. We’ve done shows in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rahim Yar Khan and Topi. We have done corporate shows as well as large scale shows like the PAS awards recently. We just celebrated our one year anniversary in and we did two shows on 28th and 29th July at The Hotspot as a celebration. The two day celebration was called Youm-e-Khawatoons and the house was full!
5. You were recently a part of a video related to feminism with several other female celebrities. Most of the women who were interviewed in that video shied away from acknowledging the movement. Why do you think women in Pakistan – more specifically the privileged women of Pakistan – not want to associate themselves with this term?
Because people, even the educated ones don’t know what feminism means. I’ve noticed some people either pretend to be feminists (because it’s the new in thing) or completely act out and say we’re against it without really knowing what they’re against. People can choose not to be feminists as long as they have some logical explanation as to why. What that explanation could be, I don’t know. Saying ‘Hey I’m not a feminist’ doesn’t make you cool or unique or likeable. Just saying!
6. Do you remember where was your first ever performance on stage? How was the response like?
First ever memorable one was in fifth or sixth grade. I played a farmer and didn’t garner much of a public reaction. Haha. On a more commercial level, I did a play in 2011 which was also pretty forgettable. However, I’ve always enjoyed being on stage even though it would scare me a lot and I’d stammer endlessly sometimes.
7. What is it like being a female comedian in a male-dominated field? Is it an advantage or not?
I can’t say whether it’s an advantage or not but I’ve started getting a lot of unasked for unpleasantly competitive vibes from certain people. I’m not here to compete and compare. Relax. Not everyone is the same but more often than not people either want to be your heroes or pull you down. However, there are some who are and have been extremely supportive and respect me for my journey.
8. Who are your favorite comedians globally?
I like quite a few but at the top of my head there’s Melissa McCarthy, Aditi Mittal, Hasan Minhaj, Sarah Silverman and of course in Pakistan, Moin Akhter Saab and Hina Dilpazir.
9. You have also featured in several online videos. What video would you say was the one that got you the most attention? Also, how do you think the internet has shifted or shaped comedy and what we think is funny today?
I always say that I’ve made much better videos but none have matched the popularity of Baji Eww which was my first ever video for social media. I think the internet is the best place to show case your existence but not the best place to showcase your talent. Everyone has a page now and similar content that’s been done with. We like relatable stuff but also tend to stick a certain formula with online videos. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to expand my horizons and so will the others.
Follow Faiza on Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/faizasaleempage/