Pakistan-born, Northam-dwelling comedian, Sami Shah, brings his award-winning show, I, Migrant, to the Perth International Comedy Festival. We had a quick chat about shows, settling in and learning to be laid back.
Sami Shah’s profile has risen dramatically since he first started doing regular stand up shows after moving to Western Australia from his native Pakistan. Already an established performer there, he came equipped with the performance chops and stage presence of a veteran, allowing him to jump from no-name to big name in record time. Of course, it also helps that he’s a tireless worker, always polishing his act.
“I’ve been working on some new stand up material.” he tells us. “I’ve slowly been developing a new hour now because I’ve kind of done this one a lot. I’ve done a comedy album – I put that up on my website. I have zero skills in selling myself, like marketing? Self marketing, I find it too shameless an act for me to do well. I’m trying to overcome that to see if I can make some money off of it, but it seems unlikely.”
It’ll be a while before we see that now stuff, though. For his run at the Perth International Comedy Festival, Shah will be presenting the show that saw him playing to packed houses at the 2014 Fringe World. “I did 10 nights there and I was shocked that every night sold out completely. It was pretty insane. The Perth Comedy Festival people asked me if I has new material ready and I said there was no way I could do a new hour right after that, in that time, but I figured that what I could do is the Fringe show, I, Migrant, one last time in WA. It’s a full hour, it’s about moving to Australia, living here, it’s about my perceptions of that and then a lot of other random things like what it’s like being married, being a father. The reviews were good and it’s won a few awards now, so I’m hoping the luck holds with that one now.”
In the mean time, Shah has settled in to life in Northam, where he must stay as part of his process of immigration and whose idiosyncrasies have provided much grist for his comedy mill. Indeed, Shah can be downright ruthless when it comes to making fun of his adopted town.
“Oh yeah,” he agrees. “Absolutely. But I also ruthlessly take the piss out of Pakistan when I’m there. If I moved to Melbourne, I’d probably ruthlessly take the piss out of Melbourne. It’s just part of my act. But no, I’m very settled in. The people at Woollies know me, the people at the butcher shop know me, half the town likes me and the other half doesn’t like me and everyone’s kind of settled in to their opinions. We’re very well placed here now.”
But there are still elements of Australian life he has trouble adjusting to. “I think things are more laid back, they’re more relaxed. I think that’s a wonderful thing but it takes some getting used to when you come from a place like Karachi where everything is insanely frantic all the time. Over here people do things in their own time, and you have to realise that that’s okay and there really is no hurry. At first that really kind of drove me insane but I’m settled into that now. That whole Wait Awhile thing that WA supposedly stands for, I don’t think that’s an insult – it’s something to revel in.”
Sami Shah’s I, Migrant is on at The Velvet Lounge on Thursday, May 8, Friday, May 9, and Saturday, May 10. For tickets and session times, hit up perthcomedyfest.com.au. to purchase his comedy album, I, Migrant – Live At The Noodle Palace, go to samishah.com.