[Photo Courtesy: Mona Shaikh]
Mona Shaikh said she broke into the comedy world by accident.
She remembered putting on a brave face to perform in her first show at New York’s Comix Comedy Club six years ago. “That was my first real audience and it was really good for someone who had just started,” Shaikh said. “I had only done comedy on stage once before that.”
Since then, Shaikh’s witty comedic style has earned her a growing fan base. She regularly performs on stage and shares hilarious musings on life through her YouTube channel. Shaikh has touched on topics from the trend of outsourcing jobs to India to the pressures of getting married in South Asian culture.
She draws inspiration from the topics she feels most passionate about. As a Pakistani woman in comedy, Shaikh said she enjoys challenging cultural norms, which has earned her the moniker, “The Naughty Muslim Comedian.”
[Photo Source: Twitter/Mona Shaikh]
“The one thing you never really see is ‘naughty’ and ‘Muslim’ in the same sentence, but I’m all about doing things that have never been done before, so here I am sticking with it,” Shaikh explained.
One of her favorite memories was headlining a show at The Hollywood Improv comedy club last year.
“My mom was with me, my name was on the marquee, the room was full, and I made history by being the first Pakistani female ever to garner the honor of having my name on the marquee,” Shaikh recalled. “Also I did extremely well. It was a beautiful moment.”
Shaikh said her mom has always been her biggest fan and supporter. She has even made guest appearances in her YouTube videos, commenting on everything from the importance of marriage and babies to why women should not wear low-cut tops. Shaikh’s work hilariously captures conversations that any young South Asian can relate to with their own parents.
“It’s always challenging to navigate through unchartered territory, but fortunately for me, it’s been great,” she said.
Shaikh also said there are moments when finding humor is difficult. She constantly has to work to reconcile her Muslim background with her unapologetic comedic style. Shaikh said that sometimes, it can feel like walking a tightrope.
“I feel it becomes challenging when you start talking about taboo topics such as sex, God or politics,” Shaikh explained. “The most wonderful thing about comedy is that you can talk about some pretty sensitive topics with a sense of humor and actually get people to listen to you.”
Still, Shaikh said she gets more love than hate from her fellow comics and from people in the South Asian community.
“[It’s rewarding] having people walk up to me after the show and thanking me for making them feel like they belong and they’re not alone in their journeys,” she said. “You feel like you made someone breathe a little easier and that’s a great feeling.”
Shaikh said she would love to go on a world tour one day and break into TV and film. She hopes that her comedy will continue to spur dialogue and challenge cultural boundaries.