Amir Khan Doesn’t Worry About Being Relatable

Amir Khan. Photo: Courtesy of Amir Khan

Amir Khan (@AmirKhanStuff) is a comedian based in New York City but originally from Miami. He performs with his improv team, Promises, at UCB Hell’s Kitchen in New York. He also performs monthly with the Asian AF New York team at UCB.

This week, Amir and I talked supportive improv teams, young moms, and being a full-on dumbass.

I think publicly lying to make yourself seem happy is so flickin’ funny. I included this tweet as a favorite because it is me just being a full-on dumbass — it is truly just me speaking pure nonsense, but I’m positive you can imagine the type of person saying it. One of my favorite types of characters to play in improv scenes is a person who is just so happy that they stop making sense. And in a way, that is me!!!!! (I’m not happy hehehe)

What made you decide to pursue comedy?
My sister lived next to UCB Chelsea, and I was visiting her in New York when she mentioned she lives next to a comedy theater and asked if I wanted to go. When we saw the show it melted my frickin’ mind to hell. I have always been the type of person who sees something creatively, and if I want to do it I give it a shot.

That being said, I have always been a weirdass and loved comedy, and I was working for a small graphic-design agency in Miami at the time. When they told me there was a huge chance they were shutting their doors, I signed up for an improv class while I still lived in Miami and bought a one-way ticket to New York.

Do you think Twitter and social media have been good for your comedy? Has it changed your sense of humor or the way you think of jokes in any way?
Twitter is a place for me to dump dumb ideas and scenarios I think up. I guess that’s what it is for everyone though, so fuck me.

But I don’t think too much about my jokes I put out there; it’s usually a quick thought I have that makes me laugh to myself. Sometimes if it bombs and I hate myself I’ll delete it, but usually it’s just a quick stupid thought I have. A lot of my humor is the way I say things and the language I use, so I think it’s definitely helped me sculpt things in that way.

Personally, I like when a small tweet really paints an insane picture. I’m a dumb visual guy, so I like to see a whole scene when it’s possible. I think adding something stupid like corny-ass generic music cues in a tweet really builds out the entire world instantly.

One of my huge stresses is that I have to travel by plane sometimes as a brown dude. Mainly, that I’m a brown dude :~) I’ve always felt like an outsider being mixed-race, and this fictitious event is basically, “What can make you feel like the ultimate piece of shit that doesn’t belong?” I’m constantly hassled and bothered, and I think it’s kind of fun to point out a real nightmare scenario without holding back the punches. In the abstract this is kind of funny and stupid, but if this actually happened I’d probably just be a sad lil’ guy. ANYWAYS, BE NICE TO ME!!!

Has feeling like an outsider shaped your comedy? Do you think that feeling has benefited you in any way?
For sure — I’ve always felt like a weirdo. Whether it’s being mixed-race and not “being enough” of either side, or always being a difficult prick who doesn’t follow the “mainstream.” I’ve always been called “weird” growing up, and I have kind of learned to take that as a positive! I’ve always been attracted to the absurd and experimental.

When it comes to improv, I think it has benefited me because it’s a thing people take so seriously with regards to rules and doing the “right” thing. That gets so boring to me as an audience member, so I try to trust my instincts more than anything on what is funny and what will make someone laugh as opposed to if something was the “perfect” textbook move. We’re making the damn thing up, nothing is a perfect move. I often feel like the compliments I get are that I’m having fun or I’m wild or I’m weird up there, and I love that. When it comes to bits and videos and other shit, I often don’t worry about being relatable because I don’t find myself relatable. I just do my own thing, and I think that’s relatable or interesting enough in its own way.

What made you go down the improv path, as opposed to sketch or stand-up? What is your favorite part about working and performing with your improv teams, Promises and Asian AF?
I actually thought I’d be doing stand-up when I first started out with just some improv to go along with it. I went to a few open mics and was kind of turned off by it. My experience with it was kind of lonely and alienating. When I started doing improv, I felt like I was in my element and like I was just fucking around with some buds. I wouldn’t say I’m exclusively an improv person, though. I do bits and stupid weird bullshit on friends’ shows, so that kind of scratches that stand-uppy itch. I like to leave an audience thinking, What am I seeing? So I would say I am definitely drawn to that stuff too. I guess I just like comedy and doing it, if you can freaking believe!!!!

Working with Promises is a dream situation. You never know who will be on your team when UCB assembles your team, and I was extremely fortunate to be put on a team with very supportive people. I know that no matter how insane a choice I make, it will be celebrated, and that’s super-important to me in improv! It can be hard to deal with seven other people’s wants/needs, but we are all good listeners and genuinely care about how we all feel, so it feels generally positive. I also can’t fail to mention that the team has so many different styles and voices, and it works well for us. I mean, some of the funniest people at the theater (in my opinion) are on my team — what a dang fricking happy thing, huh?! Also, who knows, UCB can break us up tomorrow if they want to, but I’m glad I currently get to work with these freaky freaks. They rule.

Asian AF is very fun because it’s very supportive in a new, interesting way to me. We are all different — I’m half-Pakistani, but we have people from all over the continent, from Central Asia to East Asia, and we all face different things but can relate on the baseline that we are different but the same, and that unites us and that whips total fuckin’ ass. It’s also fun playing for a majority-Asian audience! It’s also great because I don’t think when someone says “Asian” they think of South or Central Asians, and then they get to see it’s a big, extremely diverse continent and we’re up there showing people everyone’s welcome.

I really like this one a lot and it makes me laugh for some ding-dong reason. It was definitely just something I kept saying to people one day after a show. I think it’s just funny to be a young person who kind of has to tell people about it in not extremely obvious ways. I’m constantly referencing “The Hot Teenagers” and I think you know the kind of kid I’m talking about: the child with utmost confidence to ruin your fuckin’ miserable life. Also — what da frick? A mom born in 1995 definitely exists, but I was born in 1990, so, um … that’s just freaking spooky, my friend. Honestly, it’s just me talking my BS as usual.

Wait, so when was your dad born then?

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Amir Khan Doesn’t Worry About Being Relatable