Fahim Anwar took an unconventional route to his comedy career, but it was an undoubtedly sensible one.
The rising comedian and actor in “Whiskey Hotel Foxtrot” was originally an aerospace engineer before becoming a comedian full-time.
Before his upcoming shows in Madison, The Badger Herald was able to chat with Anwar about his success in such a cutthroat business.
This interview has been edited for style and clarity.
BH: How did you find the strength to leave a promising and stable career as an aerospace engineer to pursue stand-up comedy?
Fahim Anwar: I started doing stand-up when I was 18, right out of high school. The mechanical engineering degree and working in aerospace was something practical while I pursued something unpractical.
The romantic version people like to envision is I never did standup until one day I stood on top my desk and yelled “I quit! I was born to entertain!” I basically straddled Boeing and comedy for three years until I had enough jobs lined up in comedy where it was rather obvious the day job was holding me back.
BH: You were recently named one of the top ten rising comedians in L.A. How has living in L.A. impacted you as a comedian?
FA: The first way is it’s a new place and you’re seeing this town fresh, so you’ll come up with perspectives other comedians haven’t — if you’re lucky. One of my first bits I wrote when I moved to LA is how I visited home (Seattle) after moving and realized I brought home some LA mannerisms.
I’d tell the crowd I’d be having a conversation with my mom and [I’d] constantly be looking over her shoulder to see if anyone more important walked into the room.
[I’d say,] “Oh my God, is that dad? He might be able to help me more with my career than you can,” and I’d pantomime shoving her aside.
The second way LA influenced my material is it elevated it. There’s just more great comedians in the pool, and knowing where the bar is is great for growth — consciously or subconsciously.
BH: You were in the comedy-drama Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. As a writer, what did you take away from working with Tina Fey?
Fahim Anwar: Tina (Fey) was great while filming. I didn’t really learn anything as a writer working with her because she was more of an actor in [the] project. If anything, it just reinforced there are many paths to stardom and writing is one of them, sort of like Larry David.
BH: What advice can you give to students who feel that their future lies in their major?
FA: I would say unless your parents are loaded, pick a major with teeth, like engineering, medicine, law. Communications is great if you’re a defensive tackle trying to get by, but if you’re 150 pounds and your name is Brad, maybe not. I remember I wanted to do a theater degree because I knew I wanted to be in the arts, but my dad said no. I’m so glad he did.
BH: What should your audience in Madison be expecting from your show this weekend?
I don’t know, just a fun time [while I’m] talking about a myriad of topics. I’m actually running my hour that I’ll be taping for my special this November. It’s going to be on NBC’s new comedy digital streaming service, SeeSo.
So, if you wanna get a sneak peak before that comes out that might be cool. Or maybe you won’t even catch that and this article is the last thing you ever read or see on me. In which case, it’s been a pleasure.