‘People say I am either a genius or really stupid’: Comedy duo prepare for Manchester fundraiser gig

One of London’s hottest comedy collaborations is coming to Manchester this weekend for a good cause.

Saban Kazim and Sarah Sheldon will perform their debut show at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Saturday, raising money for mental health charity Manchester Mind.

The event follows their sell-out run at last year’s Camden Fringe festival, and the duo admit they are looking forward to performing in aid of the charity.

Saban told MM: “It feels like what we’re doing is worthwhile.

“You can go out every night and make people laugh, but if you’re doing it for charity it gives you a nice feeling inside.

“You feel good, you’re doing what you enjoy, you’re making people laugh and you’re raising money so everyone wins.

“It’s also getting more people to come and see it as well, there’s normally a pretty good atmosphere at these things,” added Sarah.

“It’s an enjoyable way of raising money.”

Journalist Sarah, who grew up in Manchester, and Saban have been working together over the past year after meeting on the comedy circuit, and followed the advice of others to team up for a show.

They tested the water with their sell-out run at Camden Fringe last year – Saban joked that the theatre had just 42 seats  and although the pair recognise that the project was a gamble, they found the outcome rewarding.

“It was good fun, a good experience,” Saban said.

“Usually on the circuit you only get five or ten minute spots, but with our own show we had an hour to split between us, so there was a lot more pressure and we had the chance to do a lot more material.”

“Our stuff is quite similar so we didn’t really know if it would be too much or not, but we were both pretty happy with how it worked out in the end,” Sarah added.

“We just want to do it again.”

While some comedians prefer one-liners and jokes, Saban and Sarah prefer the more natural and believable approach of telling personal stories.

“Mine’s loads of silly stuff,” Saban said.

“My dad’s Turkish-Cypriot, so mine’s light-heartedly making fun out of my Turkish relatives and stuff.

“I’ve got a story about trying to buy a kebab with my cousin in Cyprus, a shaggy dog story, there’s another one about trying to get a job in the job centre, trying to buy some toast – stuff that happens to me basically.

“It helps if it’s personal, the audience will buy into it more because they can see you’re a genuine person, you’re not making it up, they’re more willing to go along with it.”

“The more honest you are, the more people enjoy it and the more people can relate to what it is you’re doing,” Sarah added.

“People enjoy being taken along a journey.

“I think an hour of one-liners – I wouldn’t want to go and see that.”

Both comedians have found the approach successful, with Sarah also telling stories about her family, notably her Czech grandmother.

She explained that many of the stories find their way into the shows after friends have found them funny – an important step before you tell them to ‘lots of random people’.

It’s not just the stories that are important for Saban and Sarah, but also how they impose their personalities on the audience. 

Again the duo prefer a more natural approach, and Sarah insists that her comedy partner is no different on stage or off it.

“I have to say that Saban is pretty much what he’s like on stage,” Sarah said.

“People come up to us and say to me ‘you’re either a genius or you’re really stupid’ and I never know how to take it.

“They’re like, ‘we really like your character on stage’, and I’m like ‘what character? It’s me’,” Saban added.

The pair have much to look forward to after their Manchester gig, with another show lined up for Bristol Mind, while Saban will take part in the semi-finals of the Amused Moose Laugh Off.

The competition, where both industry judges and the audience choose the winner, has a history of uncovering fresh talent – including 2005 winner Sarah Millican and 2007 champion Jack Whitehall.

The duo are no strangers to critical acclaim, with Saban having previously won The Comedy Store King Gong in December 2014, while Sarah was a finalist at the Jewish Comedian of the Year awards in the same year.

Saban has also secured a spot at London’s famous Comedy Store, and he is feeling the pressure to succeed.

“It’s only a five minute spot in between the pros, but it’s quite nerve-wrecking,” he said.

“There’s 300-400 people in the audience, it’s not like a normal gig, it’s got a lot more riding on it.”

The Comedy Store audience also brings with it a fair share of heckling, but Saban doesn’t worry too much about it.

“The problem is because you’re doing a five minute spot in between these pros, you haven’t got time to deal with it,” he said.

“So I can ignore them, I’ll say ‘cheers mate, thanks’ and carry on, just pretend I didn’t hear them.”

Tickets for Saturday’s gig cost £8 in advance or £10 on the door, and all proceeds go to Manchester Mind.

For more information click here.

Image courtesy of Saban Kazim and Sarah Sheldon, with thanks.

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