The dream of an international career as a telecommunications engineer brought Pakistani Suhail Nasir to Shanghai in 2005. But like many dreams, his took an unexpected turn.
For the past five months, Nasir has attracted almost 30,000 followers to his weibo microblog with online video clips of his comedy routine “Shanghai Taxi Driver vs Beijing Taxi Driver.”
“I was always interested in humor,” says Nair, 37. “Even when I was in university back in Pakistan, I wrote a few humorous essays and short stories. I was always interested in public speaking.”
In 2008, he won the China National Contest for Humorous Speeches, organized by Toastmasters International. From there, his dream was to become a stand-up comedian.
His success is curious because he didn’t start learning Chinese until about two years ago. “It was very tough in the beginning,” he says. “Sometimes half an hour would pass before I could understand a single sentence.”
Though he is still far from fluent, he has made great strides.
In 2011, Nasir opened his weibo blog, called Wai Pai Qing Kou (ÍâÅÉÇå¿Ú), or literally foreign-style clean talk, and put a few of his Chinese speeches there. Unexpectedly, the clips soon attracted a large number of followers.
“I wanted to learn more Chinese on the Internet, and my Chinese netizens helped and encouraged me,” he says.
Nasir’s infatuation with comedy doesn’t affect his 9-to-5 job as an engineer.
But when he leaves the office, the serious look turns to a funny face. He performs monthly in Chinese at the comedy club Lauphilos, or Xiao Dao Wen Hua, and also does speeches in Toastmasters clubs.
“Most of the audience at Xiao Dao is Chinese, while at Toastmasters, it’s usually more foreigners,” he says.
Nasir’s job requires him to travel around the world, which gives him ample material for his comedy routines. “I like to talk to people and listen to their stories,” he says.
Nasir says he sometimes discusses the idea of “dreams” with his Chinese friends.
“Actually, Pakistan and China are both traditional societies that share many of the same values,” he says. “Like family, respecting elders and giving hospitality. Many of these values shape our dreams.”
He says he’s not quite comfortable with the idea that dreams have to relate only to careers and money.
“I believe that we should dream for a balance in life,” he says.