Laughter is great therapy so put your hands together for the Peace Youth and Community Trust’s (PYCT) first Muslim Comedy Tour, which calls in at Brent Town Hall this month.
Founded by Mohammed Walji at the start of this year, PYCT is a charitable organisation that aims to engage young people and support their aspirations.
The Brent-based charity is currently backing two projects: the Kiyaan Prince Foundation (KPF), set up to address youth violence and reduce gun and knife crime and the Ansar Youth Project (AYP), which specialises in targeting young people from a disadvantaged and marginalised communities in Brent, Harrow, Camden, Barnet, Westminster and neighbouring boroughs.
“We’re setting up projects to help young people develop in a holistic manner,“ says Mohammed. “We want to support charities that offer activities where there are no barriers to participation. We also provide support with mentoring services and with obtaining qualifications.“ The PYCT ran a talent show and three young participants won the chance of a guest spot on the comedy tour. Mohammed Saleh, Mustafa Al-Musawi and Hassan Bilal will be entertaining audiences with their poetry and positive rap.
The comedy tour line-up features Somalian stand-up Prince Abdi from Brixton, who won the Your Comedy Star at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007 and Jeff Mirza, whose routines have won him an EMMA comedy award and taken him to the finals in the BBC Open Mic Award.
Support comes from Nigerian comic Nabil Abdul Rashid and up-and-coming comedians MJ and Nazim Ali.
Also appearing in stand-up for the first time is Croydon comic Humza Arshad, who was a judge at the PYCT talent show. Humza became an online sensation late last year with his Diary of a Badman videos, which have already attracted more than 70,000 subscribers and racked up more than a million views on YouTube.
“It’s been quite a busy ten months,“ says Humza. “I made the first one in September but to be honest I didn’t release it for two months because I wasn’t very confident about it. Then friends and family pushed me on because they said they could relate to the character. He’s a stereotypical young guy in today’s society who gets into trouble but learns from his experiences.
“After the second video, people got addicted to it. They thought it was very funny and appreciated the good moral at the end. I didn’t want to make pointless comedy.“ Far from it. Humza has now completed video number eight and is looking forward to the fresh challenge of bringing Badman to the stage. Having studied acting at Croydon College, Kingston College and completed a drama degree at Richmond Drama School, he has plenty of experience but admits stand-up is something else.
“It is a big transformation but I’ve been studying acting for five years. Basically this is a chance for me to say whatever comes into my mind. There’ll be a lot of improvisation and me babbling on about different problems with a few good messages to keep the format the same.“ I ask Humza if he thinks young people get enough help for them to make the right life choices?
“There’s never enough help really but there’s a lot of people trying to make a difference and address the issues. Organisations like PYCT are a step in right direction.“
The Muslim Comedy Tour comes to Brent Town Hall, Forty Lane, Wembley on Friday, July 22 from 6pm. Details: 07958 046602, www.pyct.org