Lol Waalay’s unique Improv Comedy in Karachi once again
After an extended hiatus, the Lol Waalay improvisational comedy troupe came back this weekend with a public show. For the past few months, the troupe has been locked away in their secret liar (i.e. Kumail’s house), refining their style and performance dynamics in the wake of Akbar Chaudhry’s departure for the United States. Lol Waalay: Welcoming Winters at PACC was meant to be a showcase of all the ways in which they have changed and evolved as a troupe.
Led by Zuhaib Shaikh as the host, Sannan Wastani, Syed Osama Sami, Zubair Tariq, Muhammad Kumail and Aadi Amjad took to the stage for an hour and a half and attempted to tickle our funny bones with improvisational comedy. The venue was sold out with an audience that was clearly excited for the troupe’s much awaited return.
The troupe has managed to step up their game several notches. Lol Waalay has always been a delight to watch, with performers that have a natural talent for being funny. During their hiatus they’ve improved even further: their interaction with each other has become more polished, their delivery of jokes is more skilful and the overall dynamic of the troupe has become more cohesive.
Zubair Tariq stole the show, sucking the audience in from the get-go when he ended the first game with a series of poses and motions that had the audience in fits. His exaggerated gestures and unapologetically hilarious enactments, especially of the many female characters he was made to play, were on point through out the show. When Zubair is playing a girl who has a strange relationship with her driver and dainty mannerisms at the gym, you forget the tall, dark man standing onstage in jeans and a t-shirt. What you see is a girl in tights and a floral kameez running around on the stage.
Sannan Wastani has proven that he is not only a comedian, but a stellar actor and performer. His characterisations are believable while being hilariously exaggerated and stereotypical, a balance that is difficult to achieve. His performance was off to a weak start with a few jokes falling flat. However, his initial failures did not deter Sannan and he made a very strong return during later games. Being able to bounce back from a weak start is imperative to being a good comedian. Sannan’s ability to do this is promising for future performances.
Syed Osama’s performance has matured remarkably. Since the days of Saad Haroon’s The Agency, he has developed a distinct style that appeals to all audiences. He has a knack for expertly breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience. He keeps the audience engaged and has a lovable persona that makes him endearing to watch. Osama also shows a talent for faltering in style. He makes it obvious when he is at a loss and acknowledges when his jokes haves fallen flat. By making fun of his own failures on stage he creates moments of hilarity out of them.
Over the course of Lol Waalay’s career, Muhammad Kumal has managed to become a crowd favourite. He dives into characters with a delightful vigour while maintaining a very distinct persona. Improvisational comedy is a tough game because of it’s unscripted nature. But Kumail is very rarely at a loss, churning out a seemingly endless stream of jokes. He is able to draw laughs consistently and is always ready to step in when a fellow performer falters.
Aadi Amjad has shown the most improvement and his performance was far more polished than before. In former shows, he has shown a tendency to hijack fellow performers’ jokes and resort to crude comedy and awkward overacting. In this latest show, Aadi has finally managed to show his acting chops. He put forward funny characterisations instead of running around on stage like a clown. Even now he sometimes shows an unwillingness to share the spotlight and tends to beat a joke to death. But if his improvement is anything to go by, these issues in his performance will hopefully be resolved soon enough.
Ali Gul Pir also gave a guest performance during the show. Present in the audience, he was unanimously voted on to participate in the first game that called for audience participation.. Although he had clearly been put on the spot unexpectedly, Ali Gul dived right into his performance. He is clearly an improv veteran and the audience was lucky to have seen him perform.
Attend enough improv shows and you start to see the process behind the act. The low-voiced, “How did I do?,” discussions and encouragements between performers when they are seated. The hurried, whispered briefs when setting up a scene. The look in their eyes when their minds are working a mile a minute to come up with the next joke. But underneath all of it, there’s a natural flow. Scenes are meant to progress organically and when the performance starts coming across as contrived, the troupe has lost.
Lol Waalay are well on their way to mastering this organic flow. They are able to draw laughs consistently, pick up on each other’s cues almost psychically and carry scenes to fulfillment effortlessly. Performing improv comedy for an hour and a half is a marathon, but they make it look easy. And lucky us, because they gave us the time of our lives while doing it.
Photo courtesy: Fototastic