Zubi Ahmed Takes 2–3 Business Days to Come Up With a Joke

Zubi Ahmed. Photo: Kristina Stefanelli

Zubi Ahmed (@DamnZoob) is a comedian and filmmaker from Brooklyn. She co-hosts a show with Pooja Reddy called Kutti Gang, which features South Asian women, queer, and gnc performers. She also wrote and directed a web series called “Polterheist,” which is available to watch on Vimeo.

This week, Zubi and I chatted Fortnite, oat milk, and the end of the world.

What motivated you to start doing stand-up?
When I started out, all I knew was that I wanted to write comedy. I think what motivated me to start doing stand-up was that it was even a possibility to do this at all. As a kid who didn’t have the resources to do theater or get involved in performing arts, I just didn’t know that it was an option. Writing for TV or doing comedy? Only people who weren’t from where I’m from can do that stuff is what I was raised to believe. I didn’t know how much I was missing out, and as an adult I’m compensating for the knowledge that wasn’t available to me, and I’ve realized how much I actually enjoyed performing my own writing. So here I am.

I don’t have health insurance currently, and my mortality is all I can think about, because if I’m already dead then it’s not my problem. Right? … Guys?

Has social media helped your comedy career in any way? Has it changed your sense of humor at all?
I don’t know if social media has helped my comedy career. It has definitely made me compare myself to other comedians who are so funny and fast at coming up with clever tweets and content. I’m here like I need to 2–3 business days to come up with something remotely funny that will only get like six likes anyway, but I’m out here I guess! Social media has definitely helped me be more comfortable with how often I think about death and the world ending. I think maybe even four or five years ago I would’ve been hesitant to share a dark tweet, but now I’m like, Whatever, we’re all thinking it.

I like this tweet because I love my mom and in this particular tweet which was based on true events, I just love that I’m flexing on my mom like I’m teaching her new information, but I don’t actually know anything I’m talking about. I think I do this a lot as a child of immigrants, where I think I’m smart and teaching my parents when in reality I’m dumb and need to be humbled. But seriously, I hear oat milk is the move these days. But also, even though I had the audacity to bring up oat milk to my mom, I need folks to keep in mind that not every family has oat-milk money. They don’t even sell oat milk in my neighborhood.

You tweet a lot about your family. Do you think that your upbringing and family members have shaped your comedy?
I think my upbringing and my family has for sure shaped my comedy. My parents really don’t get how hilarious they are when they say the things they say. The other day, I deadass overheard my mom yelling at my brother and she goes, “Stop having so much, Allah will get mad!” I’m in the bathroom laughing my ass off because WHO SAYS THAT? I’m sure Allah got other problems, and my brother playing Fortnite for over three hours is not one of them.

Tell us about your web series, “Polterheist.” What inspired it? How did you go about getting it made?
Polterheist is about a guy and a gay ghost and it’s starring Sibel Damar and Usama Siddiquee. Basically, a ghost (Sibel) asks a teacher (Usama) for his help to cross over to the other side, and in the process we get to see their developing friendship. This project was actually my thesis for my Master’s program, so I got a bunch of my classmates and friends to get together and help me make it. I was inspired to write it because I’m intrigued by the supernatural, because one of my biggest fears is being possessed by a demon, so like with all things that scare me, I thought I’d make a joke of it.

Maybe your family is screaming while you nap because they’re trying to keep you on your toes. Have you ever considered that they’re doing you a favor, Zubi?
LOL absolutely not.

This is just straight-up living with immigrant family problems, and I like it because I need to put them on blast. Why when I’m trying to take a nap does everybody in the house need to fight over the remote and loudly announce that we’ve run out of tea biscuits? WHY.

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Zubi Ahmed Takes 2–3 Business Days to Come Up With a Joke