In November 2012, Center Stage welcomed two very funny men to the U.S., Danish Ali and Ali Gul Pir, also known as Very Live. While on tour in the U.S., they were eager to see what made Americans laugh - while also showing that in Pakistan there's no lack of material for a comic.

Their first residency took place in Hanover, New Hampshire, at Dartmouth College during the 2012 presidential election week. Danish and Ali brought together Dartmouth's three comedy groups, held a showcase at Kappa Delta Epsilon, visited an islamic Politics in the Middle East class, attended an Election Viewing party, attended a workshop with Vox Masters, a public speaking forum, and performed for Dartmouth audiences.

Stephanie Pacheco, Outreach & Arts Education Manager at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, praised their residency.

Throughout election week, the artists went well beyond their scheduled commitments and pro-actively sought opportunities to meet and engage students, staff and community members. From conversations about the economy with the owner of an outdoor goods store, to discussions about the State Department Cultural Affairs tour with Rockefeller Center staff, to after-hours engagements with students, Danish and Ali never missed a moment to learn about their host community or talk about the realities of Pakistan. Their depth of enthusiasm for cross-cultural exchange allowed for very real - and often humorous - moments exploring preconceived notions and debunking myths about Pakistan and the United States. It seemed that no topic was off limits and this provided very rich learning opporunities on both sides of the residency. They struck the perfect balance of informed and inquisitive, gracious and generous.

Moving on to Worcester, Massachusetts, NEFA staff got another opportunity to see Center Stage artists in action at the Idea Swap. The Idea Swap is an annual NEFA event for New England-based nonprofit presenting organizations to network and share project ideas that may qualify for funding from NEFA's Expeditions grant program, and Ali had the audience tricked for several minutes during his mock presentation. Posing as a professor from the "University of Sumthin," Ali made a compelling argument on why we should bring Papu Paila (a performing monkey) to the U.S. for his very own tour.

Danish also had the crowd in stitches with his stand-up routine. In addition to performing, they also got to mingle with new friends and attend some of the break-out session of the Swap to hear more about projects people were working on in theatre, dance, and music.

(Ali here with Stephanie Pachecho whom we quoted above.)

Very Live continuted on in New England at the Everett Company, Stage, and School in Providence, Rhode Island. Here they participated in a workshop with a high school music improv class and performed with Friday Night Live and at Open Stage Hour.

Ali and Danish were able to spend several days in New York City after their time in Providence. While in the city they attended several comedy shows including "50 Shades of Brown" hosted by fellow Pakistani comedian, Saad Haroon, Robin Williams at the NY Comedy Festival, and a taping of the Colbert Report. They also had the opportunity of performing with the prestigious Upright Citizens Brigade and at the famed NY Friars Club.

They finished up their tour in Washington, D.C. where they met with the State Department and sat down for an interview with Jen Kwok from the Asian American Writers' Workshop. Read the fabulous interview here.

These two have been working hard since they returned home to Pakistan. Danish Ali is working a new show and Ali has continued to create hilarious viral videos. Don't miss out on their Facebook pages and YouTube channels to follow these funny guys.

Danish: YouTube & Facebook
Ali: YouTube & Facebook

Hard to believe we are almost done recapping Center Stage's Pilot Year! Don't miss out on our last "Looking Back" at Jogja Hip Hop Foundation coming soon!


All photos courtesy of Stacey Boggs.