Yusef Mustafa graduated from De Montfort University last year and has started his journey into the ‘real world’ with his very own unique chat show; Mustafa Chat, at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival on 10 February at Manhattan 34. Promising the show will “excite and intrigue members of the comedy scene,” how exactly does a Journalism and Media graduate get involved with the festival?
“I became interested in broadcast journalism through joining Demon Media whilst at DMU,” Yusef said. “Even though my degree was mainly print journalism, I found I really enjoyed the interviewing and hosting parts of Demon Media. I did many interviews with bands and musicians as the presenter on the award winning Coffee House Sessions.”
Yusef interviewed over twenty comedy acts at last year’s Festival, including Phill Jupitus, Imran Yusuf and Josie Long. With this much experience during his time as a student, it is clear that Yusef has a knack for interviewing and getting the best out of his interviewees.
“I found it a bit harder to interview musicians and bands because they were at Coffee House Sessions to play and sing, not to entertain or be funny. During interviews I would write down funny little gags or anecdotes on my cue cards, just to keep the pace up of the interview and make it more entertaining. With comedians, it is their job to be funny so I have to focus on the questions more.”
Mustafa Chat promises to encompass both the entertaining and questioning aspects that Yusef is so good at. It will be an hour long interview with two comedians talking “about their careers, the comedy scene, and the art of writing and performing.”
“In terms of the Festival itself, the venue Manhattan 34 telephoned me and asked if I would like to do something for them as part of the Comedy Festival and I thought it would be a good idea.”
And what about the clever name of the show? Yusef said, “my co-presenter on the Coffee House Sessions, Hannah Gorzelak, made a joke about my surname sounding like ‘must have a’ at one of the great Demon Media socials. I decided it was actually really good, so that’s my show; Mustafa Chat.”
Yusef has attended the Festival every year since 2012. He said about its progression, ‘the City [Leicester] has got behind it a lot more and I think that is a great thing. I love Leicester, it’s a great city. There are some bad things about Leicester, but the good things we have are really, really good, and I think certainly since 2012, everyone’s got behind the Festival a lot more.
“I didn’t see any coverage from the University in first year from my perspective, but last year Demon Media did loads. I organised all the things Demon TV did. The paper last year had a guest editor, James Mullinger from GQ, and they had lots of interviews.”
“I’ve noticed the Festival a lot more recently. The presence in the city; it is more known than it was, even two or three years ago, which is good. The whole community needs to get behind it.”
Mustafa Chat will feature comedians Nish Kumar, described as “a highly polished, subtly innovative stand-up” by The Guardian, and Radio 1 DJ Tom Deacon, with The Sunday Times saying, “With looks, confidence, charm and great material; expect other comics to lynch him.”
The two comedians were on Yusef’s wish list of guests, along with many others as realistically it is hard to pull in people to help with a start-up show. Yusef managed to persuade Nish Kumar as he is performing in Leicester on the same date as Mustafa Chat. Yusef interviewed him at the Festival last year and found him very polite and funny. Tom Deakin was asked by a work colleague of Yusef’s and happily agreed, which Yusef describes as “a bit lucky as Tom Deakin is actually good.”
It is always difficult to interview people as their responses and mood cannot be pre-empted. Yusef named his best interview as one with the comedian Josie Long, who he described as “really, really, really well known in the comedy world with huge cults” and one of the nicest people he has ever met. “Her whole attitude to life is so optimistic and she’s so charming and lovely. She is actively engaged in politics, which is a great thing for anyone to do.
“She was really easy to talk to, and at the end of the interview I thought it would be funny to bring in a picture of David Cameron. A few years ago I saw her do some stand up about how she likes to scribble on his face in the newspaper. Then we both doodled on his face. It was pretty artistic and pretty crude, but I thought it was good.”
Comedy is all about laughing and having fun so it came as a surprise when Yusef mentioned his funniest interview with a comedian was actually no fun for him. “I’ve been told the funniest was with Phill Jupitus because he came into the interview and didn’t really say much to me. He said he only had five minutes before he went on stage.
“We started filming for Demon TV, with the interview being done in one take, and on screen he took out his phone and said I had five minutes according to his clock and started a countdown. He then deliberately gave the bluntest, one word answers. I burnt through my questions really quickly and I then ended up asking him really mundane questions.
“At the end of it when his timer went off, he stood up without saying anything and walked out of the room. It looked really funny on camera, but in reality it wasn’t because he didn’t come back. He left the room, went into his dressing room and then went on stage. It did look really funny on camera but it wasn’t funny for me at the time.”
Inevitably, next Yusef was asked about his worst interview, but came unstuck when he could not use the Phill Jupitus interview as an answer again. “I think comedians are generally very nice and welcoming, and more than happy to chat about their work. Most don’t have an ego about them and are not Rockstars.”
So who did he finally choose as his worst interview? A local stand-up comedian from DMU called Daniel Nicholas, who Yusef describes as having a very hard, harsh cold persona that he adopts. Yusef has interviewed him many times, and Daniel Nicholas apparently bullies him every single time on screen.
“The worst interview was in his garden. He tied me up, bearing in mind it was in February so cold, and threw a bucket of water on my face. He was keeping me hostage during the interview. That was my worst because it was really cold but that is the length I will go for good, funny interviews on camera.
“I think he did it because he knew it would be funny, and he knew I had to act professional in front of the camera. He is a nice guy deep down, somewhere.” They are now apparently friends.
When asked who he would most like to interview, after some deliberation, Yusef picked a musician; Morrissey. “I think he is very fascinating. He does get a bad rep, but I think he’s one of the very few artists with absolute integrity. He was dropped from his record label because he didn’t like the way they were handling things.” Yusef went on to call Morrissey an unparalleled genius and admitted he wants to “get in his brain,” cementing himself as a passionate Morrissey fan.
Creativity and integrity seem to be at the forefront of why Yusef is performing at Dave’s Comedy Festival. He said he sees his show as a creative outlet. It may not necessarily be directly related to his journalism roots but who says comedy and journalism cannot mix?
Yusef pointed out, “I think journalists can be funny too, now I don’t want to sound old, but of course particularly nowadays journalism can describe a lot, for example social media, print, web and broadcast. Charlie Brooker is a journalist and he is very funny. Broadcast journalists need to have that confidence and demeanour when interviewing, or when talking to just a camera, which is the same as comedians.
“Also, a little bit of ego or vanity. Who would go in front of a camera or on stage if they didn’t think they were at least a little bit good. Journalists can be funny and journalists can be offensive as well, as long as it is well balanced and well informed. Offence should not attack a group that don’t deserve it.”
When asked about the recent attack in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo, Yusef said, ‘I don’t really know much about that in detail, but no one deserves to be the victim of what happened in Paris, regardless of what you have done.”
Mustafa Chat is not about Yusef, the interviewer, being funny himself. He said he needs to be entertaining but most importantly get good answers from his guests because the comedy relies on them. So what can be expected from the show, and does Yusef actually know?
“You’ll have to come to the show and find out,” was his very good reply. “What I can say is that it will definitely be funny… hopefully. It will be a nice mixed chat show; there may or may not be a few props and there may or may not be a few games. It’s something a bit different for the Festival.”
It seems like comedy suits Yusef Mustafa and his first foray into the comedy world will definitely be entertaining. There is a free preview show at Manhattan 34 on 2 February at 5:30pm with local stand-up comedians; Jack Campbell and the aforementioned frosty Daniel Nicholas.
The actual Mustafa Chat is on 10 February at Manhattan 34 at 5:15pm, with £4 entry. As Yusef describes it; “the show will be funny, informative and potentially very weird,” and that’s exactly what comedy should be.
By Daljeet Kaur Sandher