Hard work pays off for free comedian Imran Yusuf

Imran Yusuf
Image caption,
Imran Yusuf was nominated for the Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards

Imran Yusuf must be the hardest-working comedian in Edinburgh.

During his 25 days on the Fringe he has totted up more than 100 shows.

But the 30-year-old Londoner's labours have certainly started to bear fruit.

Yusuf is the first act from the "free fringe" scene to be nominated for the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

He is up for the best newcomer award despite appearing as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival, where the acts perform for free with the prospect of a contribution from an appreciative crowd.

Yusuf is also the only Muslim comedian to be nominated.

He is currently observing Ramadan so he is fasting during the day despite his punishing schedule.

As well as his own show, he comperes a Laughing Horse show each night at 11.30pm and takes every open mic and guest spot possible.

"Hard work is the only way to greatness," he says.

And hard work has helped him overcome the perceived obstacle of performing at a free venue.

"It just goes to show," he says.

"Even if you don't have the profile or the budget or the right people in the right places, if you have a dream and you follow it through with passion and hard work, you can get this far."

Yusuf's breakthrough has been an "arduous journey" though.

His first foray into comedy ended in "personal depression" and 18 months away from the circuit.

He returned three years ago with a desire to "attack" the comedy scene.

Yusuf draws inspiration from US comedian Chris Rock who said the route to success was to "gig,gig, gig".

According to Yusuf, Rock is "not only a great comedian but also a spokesperson for some of the issues which don't get tackled successfully".

These are issues of race and religion and "contrived" cultural differences which divide people, he says.

Yusuf says he wanted to build bridges and connect people.

He says he has a "strong spiritual foundation" and is happy to have grown up in a culture which "inspired me for all the right reasons".

However, he does admit he has always been the odd-one-out.

In a massive extended family everyone else is a "number-cruncher".

Yusuf, the youngest of three brothers who grew up in Hackney and Harrow, has always been the "maverick".

This made it easier for his parents to accept his unusual career path.

"If I was doing this and not being successful it might be more of a problem," he says.

Yusuf, who is set to appear in the next series of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow on TV, said his recent success had blown his mind.

He said: "I am hoping tomorrow I get the phone call that I'm going to be in a movie with Jackie Chan. Then I can retire."

A future movie deal seems a possibility but for Yusuf to stop working seems very unlikely.