Victoria Nangle catches up with Foster’s Edinburgh Award 2010 nominee Imran Yusuf about being a comedy pioneer
Last year Imran Yusuf became the first comic from the free Fringe to ever be nominated for the prestigious Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly the Perrier). Since then he’s been on the Michael?McIntyre Comedy Roadshow, become a regular on Radio 4 on The Now Show and various panel games and started touring the debut solo show that kicked all of this off in Edinburgh. So how does it feel to be the comedy poster child for quality free comedy?
“Wow, I’m the poster child. It’s like I’ve never grown up! I’ll probably be the poster man,” he chuckles. “It’s very nice to know, it’s got a very kind of underdog quality to it which I really like. That theme I can live with.”
The show itself was meant to be Imran simply going up to Edinburgh under the radar to try out new material and from the bare bones of his first show. However, the reviewers had other ideas and five and four star reviews soon brought his debut huge amounts of critical recognition. “Um, I think basically my career as a ninja is over,” Imran concedes. “I’ll never be able to kind of tip toe around, and see if I can see things out on the quiet, and so I got caught red-handed. I just wanted to go up there and learn how to do an hour because it’s a craft and you need to earn it, and that’s what I wanted to do. But it turned out quite wrong.” But what of his club set, he’d already been gigging?
“It’s really weird because as a comic I was very much a club comic. I knew clubs, but I never had a whole hour to play with it in which I could not only do material but slow it down, be more personal, be more affable. You know building a relationship with the audience. And I never had the opportunity, environment to do that, so in Edinburgh I got to do it and it just took off.”
So how would he describe his show? “There is a large part of it which is quite personal, and very optimistic, I’d say. I’m one of those very naively optimistic people that are actually very irritating. For some reason, it’s just a default setting that I came with, and y’know, that’s really the vibe that I put out.” I suggest it sounds like he bounces at people. “Um yeah. I think one of the things is I’ve always been very ambitious, and I totally believe anything’s possible. I don’t believe in giving up and just quitting . There is always a way to win, and that’s the way I go in to any type of situation.”
On the flip side, Imran’s show also touches on depression. “A few years ago I was really depressed and things were going quite badly, and I had to take control and fix it all. Because I did that I know it’s possible to go and pursue the things you wish to pursue, and in return feel good about yourself. Go and find some fulfilment. And so I love people to watch my show, and feel like wow, he made it, and if we ever feel that way ourselves, we can win.” Here’s to winning. Imran Yusuf is showing us how quite nicely.
An Audience With Imran Yusuf, 21 April, Komedia, 8pm, £12/£10. www.komedia.co.uk/brighton