ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Following the release of his first stand-up comedy special, a Kurdish comedian from the United Kingdom says he is ready to break boundaries and lead the way for the next generation of comics.
Kurdistan 24 recently spoke to Kae Kurd about his first-ever comedy special “Kurd Your Enthusiasm,” as well as the challenges he has faced in his career, and ways the comedy scene can grow in the Kurdistan Region.
Being a Kurd
The young comedian delivers joke after joke in his new hilarious stand-up special which he released on Saturday, available to watch for free on YouTube.
He tells a variety of jokes which range from the Kurdish fight against the so-called Islamic State, the general refugee crisis, Brexit, and pop-culture.
“I think as long as I can make something funny, no matter how serious the issue, I will always write jokes about it,” Kae told Kurdistan 24.
“I think as comedians, we are one of the only art forms where on stage you can pretty much say what you like within reason, and I’d rather be talking about things that are going on and find the funny side of it.”
In his special, the young Kurdish comedian relays his experiences of growing up as an immigrant in Britain as well as the challenges of balancing the two cultures.
“I’ve always been active in the Kurdish community,” Kae noted. “My parents and family have always ensured that I had a strong Kurdish upbringing.”
Kae’s parents were born and raised in the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani province. His father Jaza and uncles Halo and Barzan were Peshmerga who fought for Kurdish rights against the former Iraqi regime under dictator Saddam Hussein.
His family fled to Saqiz in Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhilat) in 1988 when his father suffered mustard gas poisoning in battle. When his parents heard Britain was accepting refugees in 1990, they got on a plane with Kae and moved to the UK where his father received proper treatment for his lungs.
Breaking the Boundaries
Kae said one of the challenges of being a Kurdish comedian is that no one before him has pursued stand-up comedy, so he has had to break the boundaries himself.
“No one from my background has embarked on this kind of career path, so my parents, and I think a lot of the [Kurdish] community, thought I was wasting my time, and thought it was a phase,” he told Kurdistan 24.
However, Kae said that once he began to find success with the stand-up, and once his family realized he was serious about pursuing a career in comedy, “they became a lot more supportive.”
“Although anytime I do have some success, my mum and dad say, ‘maybe you can do a masters now,’” he jokes.
“I think a lot of people that work in entertainment want to box you in and find a way to identify you,” he added. “When they don’t know what Kurds are, it’s a challenge within itself.”
Indeed, the comedian uses his platform as a stand-up comic to educate his audience about the Kurds and what being Kurdish means.
“I like to come from a place of authenticity,” Kae said, adding he tells jokes “that are true to myself and things that I think people can relate to.”
“When I try out new jokes, if they don’t work once or twice, I pretty much never do them again.”
Stand-up Comedy in Kurdistan
The Kurdistan Region does not have a large stand-up comedy scene. Most Kurdish comedy is limited to on-stage plays or shows on television.
Asked how the new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) can help grow the stand-up scene in the region, Kae said the responsibility does not necessarily fall on the government.
“In Kurdistan, people often expect too much from the government,” he stated. “I think for Kurdistan it’s a cultural change; you can’t force people to become stand-up comedians or force a comedy scene.”
The important thing is that comics feel safe, so they can “say what they like within reason” without fear of backlash from the government, Kae said.
The Kurdish comic highlighted the influence the younger generation is beginning to have in Kurdistan, mainly through online and digital media.
“I think the youth are gradually beginning to take things into their own hands, which is great! I see young people starting their own podcasts and creating art and poetry. All it needs is an environment where people feel safe in order to create art.”
His advice for aspiring Kurdish comedians: practice and persevere. He encouraged those who want to pursue stand-up comedy to master the craft first then focus on building a fan base.
“This career path isn’t easy. Nothing comes overnight—write a lot, perform a lot, keep doing it until you get to the best you can be and then, keep doing it.”
Watch Kae Kurd’s first stand-up comedy special below:
Content contains mature subject matter and coarse language. Viewer discretion is advised.