Pariah Khan brings his one-man show, An Indian Abroad to Newport’s Riverfront Theatre on July 14.
Recently voted one of the West of England’s 30 most influential people under 30 for his work in theatre and comedy, Theatre maker, filmmaker, stand-up comedian and professional wrestling manager Pariah khan was also selected by BBC Three and The Latimer Group as one of the UK’s top 50 creative young people.
Pariah discusses An Indian Abroad with Andy Howells.
How did you get into stand-up comedy?
It’s been quite an unconventional journey. My first love was professional wrestling which made me take drama at sixth form thinking it would help my performance skills. I fell in love with theatre and wrote and performed original shows at The Lyceum in London and The Egg in Bath.
After finishing uni, I thought I’d finally try to become a pro wrestling manager and started performing for Dragon Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Chaos. There’s nothing quite like being in front of an audience baying for your blood and all you have is a microphone, but it proved to be the perfect breeding ground for giving stand-up a go.
The show I’m bringing to The Riverfront, An Indian Abroad (coming to The Riverfront on 14 July, 8pm), is a blend of theatre and stand-up. I want to bring the precision and intensity of theatre with the energy and rawness of stand-up.
You are also a performer, filmmaker, and a pro wrestling manager. How does comedy fit in around these other talents?
Almost everything I approach is with a comedic slant, whether stand-up, theatre or filmmaking. It’s what I enjoy the most, finding some aspect of life to satirise or spin a conventional topic on its head. For example, An Indian Abroad (coming to The Riverfront on 14 July, 8pm) takes the concept of the gap year student “finding themselves in India” and spins on its head by asking what if an Indian student took a gap year to the UK. What does Bradford say about my chakras? With pro wrestling, I still use humour but it’s not the primary goal – the story and the character is.
Who are your comedy heroes and why?
Growing up I was drawn to Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Lee Evans and Richard Pryor. I felt American comedians (and Lee Evans) were more raw and honest, they drew on their personal experiences and frustrations for material and I felt that was always the most rewarding due to the emotional investment you made as an audience member.
I felt British comics were funny, but were often distant from their material, they were looking outside the observation rather than being rooted in the moment and bringing in their emotion. As I’ve grown up, I’m drawn more to Marc Maron, Liz Miele, Mike Birbiglia and Jen Kirkman. The more personal, slightly darker and intense approach to comedic storytelling. You might be able to catch how they’ve influenced me on 14 July at The Riverfront (am I doing this plugging thing right?).
If you hadn’t become a stand-up comedian, what would you be?
There are two aspects that are important to me with work: social justice and the arts. If I wasn’t doing stand-up, I’d still be a playwright, performer and involved in other aspects of comedy and performance, but I’m also incredibly passionate about my day job. I work for a community organisation as a debt and benefits adviser and being able to make tangible changes to peoples’ lives (often those who are the most vulnerable and struggling) is very important to me.
Can you tell us about your show, An Indian Abroad?
The show is told through the lens of an Indian student on a gap year to the exotic island of Britain. Stifled by his middle-class life in India, Krishnan is desperate to see more of the world and to find himself… but what will he find?
Exploring race, culture and identity, An Indian Abroad has toured the UK from Plymouth to Newcastle with sold out shows in Bristol, Birmingham, London and surprisingly Oxford. Most importantly, it’s now coming to The Riverfront on 14 July.
But don’t just take my word for it, see what others have to say!
“A shrewd and bitingly funny send-up of the ‘spiritual journey’” ★★★★ – PubTheatres Magazine
“That Pariah Khan is a smart man. It’s a jaunty hour, full of well-timed gags yet beneath the joviality, there lies an acerbic touch.” ★★★★ – Kris Hallett, Bristol Post reviewer
“With precision, smart observational writing, and a small selection of props, Khan has created something really wonderful – a warm, funny, and thought-provoking piece of theatre.” – ★★★★ Stage Talk Magazine
“The best comedy can both make us laugh and make us think; An Indian Abroad succeeds on both fronts.” – Blog of Theatre Things
What do you hope the audience will take away from An Indian Abroad?
I wanted to create a show that made the most of my style of writing and performance, comedy that explores social issues in an entertaining and engaging way.
I also wanted the story to explore the experiences of several different parts of the Indian diaspora, from first generation immigrants to British Born Confused Desis to the thoughts of Britain held by those who have never left their home country. Especially the uncomfortable conversations and microaggressions you can face. If you can tap into those themes or the surprising commonalities and differences between British and Indian culture, I feel I’ve done a good job.
What’s the funniest or most peculiar thing that’s happened to you at a comedy gig?
At a wrestling show once I decided I wanted to introduce my wrestler without theme music, instead I’d sing him out a cappella. Once I started, the entire audience started stamping and singing in unison, it was one of the wildest things I’ve ever experienced. You can check it out here!
Have you got any other projects you are working on now that we can look out for in the future?
Pro Wrestling Chaos has returned after a 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Once An Indian Abroad wraps up, I’m working on writing my next one hour show BIG MAN which explores all the ways in which I don’t meet any measure of traditional masculinity. I cannot wait to take that on a national tour, and hopefully bring it to The Riverfront.
- For ticket availability for An Indian abroad visit The Riverfront Theatre website.