Coventry comic Guz Khan has had a meteoric rise. And no one is more surprised than the man himself. Within three years of a video he made for his pals accidentally going viral in 2015, he had given up his teaching job and written and starred in his own series, Man Like Mobeen, on BBC3.
Now the series returns, charting the further adventures of Mobeen and his friends and family in Small Heath, Birmingham. And again, no one is more surprised than Khan. But the 33-year-old funnyman is serious about making a mark with his comedy.
“I grew up in Coventry, single parent family, and acting and performing and stand-up comedy is so far out of the realm of something you can achieve that I still don’t really know how this has happened,” says Khan, who has also bagged a role in Idris Elba’s Netflix comedy Turn Up Charlie and is currently filming Mindy Kaling’s television remake of Four Weddings And a Funeral.
“But the moment I came into this industry, my sole focus was to create content for working class people. The people I surround myself with, that I still regard myself as. There are still so few people from working class backgrounds – white, black or Asian, who have access to this industry. I made a commitment to make a show that represents real people.”
Each episode of Man Like Mobeen deals with a serious issue. But it also shows the humdrum reality of life in a part of Birmingham that has been ridiculously misreported in the American media as a no-go area for anyone who isn’t Muslim and a hotbed for terrorist activity.
Stereotypes are toyed with and smashed, every character is full of surprises, with Mobeen – who is trying to live a good life and raise his young sister right – the voice of reason. While filming episode one, life imitated art in a serious and disturbing way.
“We kick off the new series looking at knife crime, and nothing could more topical or poignant. This is life and death,” says Khan.
“Whilst we were filming that very knife crime episode, which involves a young person at school with Mobeen’s little sister Aqsa getting caught up in carrying a knife and looking at the reason he wants to do that, I was sitting on a bench with the producer while we were filming in a park when a kid taps me on the shoulder: ‘Mobeen, Mobeen, we need your help’.
“At the top of the hill, I saw a boy getting stamped on by another group of boys and then a blade came out. We ran over and the kid was badly beaten, we called an ambulance, but thankfully he was ok.
“But in that moment nothing was more real than the very subject we were filming and talking about. It took place in front of our eyes. It was sad, but I wasn’t shocked because this is a very tough area. But that experience will always stay with me.”
Series two of Man Like Mobeen is, on first inspection, a triumph. Serious subjects sneaking through between big laughs and larger than life characters. Get on board now – we will be hearing a lot more from Guz Khan.