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Engineering Laughs: Fahim Anwar returns to the Eastside | Conversations with Funny People
Ever since he was a teenager, Everett native Fahim Anwar knew he wanted to be an entertainer. But his parents told him to be practical. So he did the unthinkable and... took their advice. Anwar performs Sept. 3-5 at Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland.
So I understand you were a Boeing engineer before diving into comedy?
ANWAR: Yeah. It was actually a really premeditated plan; an elaborate way for me to do standup. I started doing standup when I was 18. After my senior year of high school, I was going to open mics and performing all summer. When it came time to go to college, my parents would pay for it but only for certain degrees. And I tried to push it at first: I said, ‘What about a theater degree?’ and they said no, then ‘What about an English degree?’ and they said no. I wanted to have my degree and eat it too. Basically, engineering was the only degree they would still pay for. So it was a means to the end, but it made school simpler in a way. My best friend and neighbor decided to do mechanical engineering, so I decided to do mechanical engineering too.
So if you were focused on theater and entertainment from the start, was engineering a learning curve?
ANWAR: I’ve always been good at school and good at math and science. I got the degree and jumped through all the hoops. I’m able to do it, I’m a smart guy. Then, when I began working for Boeing, I would drive to Hollywood and do open mics after my day job, no problem. I only left once I reached a point of success where my job was holding me back from doing the things I really wanted to do.
Did your coworkers come out to your shows?
ANWAR: No, I kept [work and comedy] very separate. No one at work knew. Well, that’s not entirely true: Two days before my last day, somebody Googled me and of course they found out. The thing was, when I was working at Boeing there was a little bit of a generational gap. I was 22-23 when I worked there and, my coworkers, they were all in their early 30s with kids and stuff. Our worlds didn’t really cross over.
I read a story that you were booed off-stage of the Apollo Theater’s touring Amateur Night. When you were a teenager?
ANWAR: [Chuckles] Yes that’s true. It was like… it was the Paramount Theater, one of the nicest theaters in Seattle. Three-hundred some people auditioned. When I got selected, they [the producers] really did like me. It wasn’t one of those things where they picked me specifically to bomb. They liked me, they liked the set but, later on in dress rehearsal, they asked me to switch two bits around in my act. I was like, ‘Alright,’ but it wasn’t working as well for me and it didn’t work for the audience either.
I had family out, I had school people there, family, friends and this happened in front of all of them. It was quite a sensation. It was surreal almost. It’s something very few people get to experience: An entire theater booing you. I walked off stage and thought ‘This is a dream, right?’
But then its like you shake it off. I’m kind of grateful it happened so early on. If you’re able to still do comedy after an experience like that, you’re in good shape.
Have your parents come around on your career now that you’re making appearances on late night shows and booking acting gigs?
ANWAR: Looking back I’m actually kind of glad they didn’t let me do [theater or English] degrees. I wouldn’t have any leg up on what I’m doing right now. I think when you’re a kid you think a certain degree will help you up in that field. But sometimes they’re just wasted degrees. Engineering was able to springboard me into standup. I didn’t have to do things [in entertainment] for money instead of the art. Success has made things easier [when it comes to my parents]. They’re teetering a bit. Sometimes they still bring up returning to engineering, so I’m not completely out of the woods. But with every job I think they soften a bit.
You’re a Pacific Northwest native. Do you have any place you make sure you visit when a gig brings you back up here?
ANWAR: Whenever I’m back home I always try to hit up Ivar’s. Or Taco Time. Burgermaster. If I visit one place, it’s probably Burgermaster.
Any new projects coming down the pipeline?
ANWAR: I’m in a new Tina Fey movie, coming out in 2016. It’s called Fun House.