Saskatchewan·Future 40

Sask. comedian Haris Khan hosts multi-faith talk and stand-up show

Saskatchewan funny man and CBC Future 40 winner Haris Khan is hosting Regina's first multi-faith talk and comedy show, called Stand Up For Humanity.

CBC Future 40 winner Haris Khan is hosting Stand Up For Humanity

Haris Khan is a stand-up comedian and a Future 40 winner. (Haris Kahn/Submitted to CBC)

Haris Khan was always the class clown. 

"It got me in a lot of trouble," Khan recalled. "I would say something really stupid in class, but it would be funny, and people would be laughing and it would piss off my teacher." 

Khan blames his sense of humour on genetics. Primarily, he points to his father, who introduced him to slapstick comedies — think Dumb and Dumber — on VHS at a young age.

"I was an outstanding student," Khan said, sarcastically. "I stood outside the class most of the days. I was kind of like a trouble-maker."

Khan said he dreamed of becoming a stand-up comedian, but never imagined he would be able to pull it off due to his shy demeanour.

Things changed in March 2010 when friends pushed Khan into taking part in an open mic night.

In the past I have been a victim of racial abuse.- Haris Khan

"I killed it. I made people laugh." he said. "After the show, people started asking me when I would be performing next."

Fast-forward to 2015 and Khan was wrapping up an international comedy tour that ended in Dubai.

"I usually talk about things that I see or go through in society," he said. "The people that I talk about are not in the mainstream. How often do you see a Pakistani guy doing stand-up?"

The 27-year-old said he, like the popular comedian Russell Peters, represents minorities, and their experiences, through humour.

"I can say things that a lot of other comics might not say; about my racial background, you know, being a minority, being an immigrant in Canada. I have a lot of privilege that way," he said.

Being a people person doesn't hurt either, Khan acknowledged.

Racism fuelled Khan's success

Haris Khan on the red carpet in Regina. (Haris Khan/Regina International Film Festival & Awards)

Khan said there is no shortage of material to draw from in his own life.

"If I go to the airport, most often I get randomly selected," he said. 

"In the past I have been a victim of racial abuse. Sometimes because of my skin colour, sometimes because of my religion, sometimes my cultural background."

Khan said when he first started touring the local comedy circuit, transitioning from amateur to professional show, he ran into trouble.

"My career almost ended because of racism," he said. "There was a promoter who said to me 'don't ever come to one of my shows. You're done'."

Khan said the experience shocked him and it was not until later that he discovered a blog written by the promoter, filled with racist comments about him.

"He was racist," Khan said. "He tried to end my career ... but I branched out from the mainstream comedy — the club comedy. I always had a passion for doing community work, so, that's where it took me."

Comedy, in the name of love and peace

On March, 12, Khan is hosting an educational-comedic hybrid event, called Stand Up for Humanity, at The University of Regina.

"I don't think anyone has done this in the city before," he said. "The aim is to bring people together from different cultures and religions to spread the message of peace and love in our society. I find that racism does occur because of a lack of education. So, that's the goal of the show."

Khan explained that the free show will see a range of guest speakers from different religions, delivering messages of unity and acceptance. It will be followed by a stand-up comedy show with Khan and other professional comics.

Khan is currently a full-time Environmental Science student at the U of R.

"I like doing it," he said. "It keeps me out of trouble."

Haris Khan is hosting Stand Up for Humanity. (Haris Khan/Submitted to CBC)

In 2015, Khan added a CBC Future 40 award to his list of accomplishments.

"By getting this award, it solidified things," he said. "It adds more to my credibility."

Khan said he plans to nominate people he knows for CBC Future 40: 2016. 

Can you think of a few people deserving of a Future 40 award? Nominate them here.