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Does an audience only want to hear about sex workers when we are the butt of the joke?


Who cares about sex workers other than fellow sex workers and the handful of allies we have? Will comedy fans attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival show an interest in the point of view of a prostitute, or does the comedy crowd only walk the beaten track of a dead hooker joke? Evidently, we live in a “whorephobic” world in which sex workers are seen by most as the absolute dregs of society; highly at risk of physical and verbal violence, stigmatisation, human rights abuse, and social and legal discrimination.


“Suicide Bummer” is the unique true story of a Queer South Asian British sex worker who is under familial pressure to agree to an arranged marriage with his cousin. Although sex workers are all too often the butt of the joke in comedy, our personal stories are rarely platformed due to the burdening stigma which makes this occupation a dirty secret in the vast majority of cases. This stigma ensures most sex workers would prefer to remain invisible in order to protect themselves, but the invisibility also permits other comedians to continue punching down upon us without fear that we might be in the room and could retaliate. A comedian wouldn’t dare to tell a sexist joke in a room full of women, but they could comfortably imply that all sex workers are unclean deviants without fear of being accused of any prejudice at all.


Having performed on the comedy circuit for the past few years, I have discovered that I do not really fit in anywhere. British South Asian comedy promoters do not believe that their audiences are ready to be entertained by Queer Muslims. These promoters know that when it concerns the issue of LGBTQ+ equality, a significant portion of British Muslims have not yet evolved at the same rate as other ethnic minorities in the UK, due to the homophobia that is more widespread in the Muslim-Majority countries which our communities originate, and which still significantly shape our moral compass.


I believe British Comedy needs to be much braver and more accommodating. Comedy has the power to help shift our norms and values toward greater social justice, and these South Asian promoters hold responsibility as gatekeepers for their communities. The problem is that they will not offer you a spot if you are Queer because they know they risk backlash from some of their more orthodox followers, which could impact the demand for their shows. Queer comedians are not even on their radar. When I recommended Mawaan Rizwaan to one South Asian promoter I connected with on the circuit, to my disbelief, he told me he had never heard of the highly successful comedian, actor, and writer!”

Are British Muslims ready for a man like Mawaan?


A talented and relatable straight Muslim comedian is guaranteed to win a promoter plenty of bums on seats at South Asian comedy shows where cis-male comics are revered up and down the country and attract huge audiences. Is the British South Asian comedy scene ready for a Queer man like Mawaan or is there still only room for straight cis men “like Mobeen”? Meanwhile, female British Muslim comedians are attacked for just daring to step onto the stage, let alone talk openly about sex which is still such a taboo.

In a similar vein, some LGBTQ+ audiences I have performed for have been quite uncomfortable witnessing the story of a gay man “becoming straight” because it implies that the joke is on them. Queer audiences don’t want to laugh at their own expense and self-deprecating gay humour is no longer celebrated in comedy clubs.


So what does this mean for a show like “Suicide Bummer” in comedy? A show that is too Queer to be Islamic, too straight to be Queer, and too sex-positive to be working class. Who knows!


Get yourself a Pay-What-You-Can ticket for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut of “Suicide Bummer” and help prove that sex worker humour is best when it comes from the (w)horse’s mouth.


By Suicide Bummer



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