Born in Sheffield, Sheraz Yousaf grew up in Tadley, Hampshire. In June 2012, he decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy – and has been performing ever since. He has been filmed for Laugh Out Loud on BritAsia TV and, more recently, the BBC Asian Network comedy show. Every six weeks he does his one-hour show, The Pursuit of Manly-ness, at a London venue. He tells us what to expect below.
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“People often ask me why I chose the subject for my stand-up show, The Pursuit of Manly-ness. And they also ask why I hyphenated a word which already has a correct spelling. I explain that the latter is because it’s more of a blurry concept in my head than an actual word; and the former because I’m still trying to grasp what that means. Being a man; be a man; man up: all those kind of hack-phrase meaningless directions for a boy growing up. Or a young man trying to kill off the boy. Or a middle- aged (very youthful looking) unmarried man only now just getting on the property ladder.
I should explain. I’m not a fulltime stand up – I have a day job as an IT contractor. I’m an IT man. Sometimes I think I should have gone into close personal protection, or lumberjacking, or driving massive tracks in the snow in Canada. Proper man jobs.
But I chose IT. Or perhaps IT chose me. Somewhere, in a parallel universe far far away, there is a bearded-super-hairy-cigar-smoking-massive-fat Sheraz who honks his truck horn and doesn’t give a fuck about anything. Perhaps more of a man than I became. But that is the life of another man. Not this IT man who took out a sensible mortgage living within his means.
Anyway, over the past few years, I’ve been assembling and then performing small stand-up comedy sets of five, ten and twenty minutes in length. I realized, in many cases, that I had a common thread. The stuff that I’d done the entire duration of my life was to “be a man”, and I’d clearly been affected by the people that had told me what I should do to achieve this masculine pinnacle.
My racist Pakistani northern uncle was apparently a man, my violent cousins are men, my need to use the gym in my late teens to develop into a man (yet not even giving my mind a second thought) – these were all male topics right at the front of my brain that I’d chosen to take this piss out of. I’d managed to find all these subjects funny in some way and even when they go a bit dark and horrible, they’re still amusing when told to an audience that hasn’t had that stuff happen to them. Because as we all know, the best form of self-therapy is to become a stand-up comedian.
But I find, equally, the audiences that turn up understand and relate to what I’m talking about because they have had their version of those events. Maybe they don’t come from a third-generation Asian background and don’t have cage fighting cousins and racist northern uncles, but they get what place this all comes from: having to live up to other people’s ideals when we’re too young to know these aren’t the right kind of influences for us as.
The show is not even necessarily about being a man, but just the wrong/stupid/funny messages we get as men and women trying to function in an insanely instant world. It’s about trying to function as an adult and live your life with varying degrees of happiness and peace. Especially in “that London”, where you can feel like you’re kind of walking somewhere, but not at all sure where exactly you’re walking to – and everyone is just taking the piss and telling you to be a man, or man up.
So that’s what I’m going on a rant about in my show. And every man and woman should hear my rant which is going on every month this year at the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon for only a tenner. Bargain.
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My Top 5 Man-Tips
1. Always order EXTRA-large when in the kebab shop, even if you’re not hungry. And force yourself to eat it all. Challenge other men when they eat less and ridicule them eg. “Is that ALL you’re eating? You should eat like a man.”
2. When the news is about to come on tell EVERYONE you’re about to watch the news, like you’re the most worldly man in the room and everyone else are peasants watching Channel 5 and Big Brother. Let people know this is a man activity and they all need to shut up while you listen to the important news.
3. If you need to use the toilet absolutely tell everyone. e.g. “Right, I’m going for a shit.” And then let everyone know post-toilet “Just had a fucking great shit.” Make sure everyone hears.
4. If you have childhood trauma tell everyone it made you the man you are today even if you now have serious ongoing mental issues.
5. Never cry in public. EVER. Unless your football team has either lost or won. Not for a draw though.
The next two shows are on Feb 15th and March 15th at Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road EC1. Tickets here
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Gasholder is another cultural guide from London Belongs to Me Ltd. It's available monthly in print and daily online as part of a network of such publications, each passionately dedicated to the capital's neighbourhoods. Find out more about Gasholder,