26 Feb 2018

Stutter no impediment to stand-up act

From Nights, 7:12 pm on 26 February 2018

Ally Baharoon has been living with his stutter for more than 20 years, and now he's telling the story in his stand-up comedy act.

Comedian Ally Baharoon in RNZ Auckland.

Comedian Ally Baharoon in RNZ Auckland. Photo: Shaun D Wilson

"In the beginning of the show I try to give a disclaimer to people that at some point when I've gone silent it's not that I'm having a stroke, but they're lucky enough to witness stuttering," Baharoon says.

Born in Tanzania, he developed a stutter at the age of five, soon after his father died of a heart attack.

Baharoon says his mother was critical of his speech. "I tried not to stutter in front of her." he says.

Now living in Vancouver, Canada, having graduated in 2015 from his university English course, Baharoon is a comedian and writer in amongst day jobs.

From an early age, he realised there were techniques and word combinations that minimised his stutter.

Later, he says, comedy was a "natural extension" for him.

"The moment I started realising I could hide the stutter through theatrical performances - being on stage - I started pushing myself towards more public speaking scenarios.

"Then in my one-on-one interactions I found that the more goofy sounds that I make while saying certain words or trying to over-pronounce certain words were able to hide my stutter for such a long time.

"I've sort of carried that technique on stage."

He started out doing observational and word play comedy, and it's only in the past six months that he's included the story of wrestling with his speech impediment.

The inspiration came in conversation about how to write better material with a fellow comedian.

"He mentioned something that really stuck with me.

"He said: 'You need to talk about your insecurities'. And I thought, what am I most insecure about - and that's the thing that I've been hiding more than 20 years from people."

He's sent his mother a video of his show (he didn't stutter, he says) which included some of that recent material. "She said that it was really funny."

Ally Baharoon's show The FunTalker is on at the Dunedin Fringe Festival starting 8 March.

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