This week we had a talk with Karelian-Turkish comedian Bahar Tokat. You can find her BTA profile HERE.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Bahar Tokat, a 25-year-old stand-up -comedian/actress from Helsinki, Finland.
How did you end up being a stand-up comedian?
I dreamed of a career in entertaining/arts ever since I was a kid, and I attended a high school of performing arts in Helsinki (Kallion lukio). There during the first year, I took a course in speech, and the final task for that course was to do a monolog, a poem or a stand-up -performance. I had seen some stand up before but never thought I’d do it myself, but then I chose it anyway, people laughed and I was hooked. I was 16.
How do you come up with your jokes/stand-up routine?
It depends on a lot. Sometimes I just magically come up with the funniest thing ever, and usually I just have an idea about something and then I have to perfect it by writing, testing, writing, testing… It’s always somehow connected to my own life, and only seldom I come up with joke-jokes. Sometimes I just decide a topic, it can be whatever, and then just write 5 or 10 minutes on that topic trying to come up with jokes. Sometimes they stay in my set, more often they don’t, though. An advice I got from one of my comic colleagues, what he’d gotten from one of his, was that ”always tell the stuff you want to tell on that specific gig if they’re ancient or brand new”, and I try to live by that rule. That way I keep it interesting for myself, and also for the audience.
Any tips for aspiring stand-up comedians?
You never know if you’re funny if you don’t try. And nobody’s perfect for the first time. Well, some may be, but those people are assholes anyway. Sometimes it can take years until you’re funny, which means you just gotta keep trying and figuring out your thing, your style, your act. Don’t focus on other people, focus on yourself and finding out your way to make people laugh. And never steal other comics’ material. And also, kill your darlings, which means that if something just isn’t funny, either work on it or ditch it. And most of all; you better work!
How big of a part does your Karelian-Turkish background play in your comedy?
It depends on the show. I always have to bring it up somehow, even a little bit, because Bahar Tokat is not a common name and it’s kinda the elephant in the room, you kinda have to mention it.
Which comedians do you look up to?
The ones that speak with a fresh point of view. The ones that year after year write new, even funnier material that they had before. The ones that take a simple everyday thing and make it new. The ones that break the rules somehow.
Do you know of any other Goth comedians?
Not in Finland, at least. And some probably would argue that I’m not a real goth either for not bothering to bring my A-game when it comes to my looks every single day. But hey, what can you do, I’m lazy as f*ck.
What is the best thing about stand-up comedy?
When people laugh. Definitely that. And also people coming up to me after the show to tell me in person just how brilliant I was. It really feeds my starving ego.
Most memorable show you had?
Well, one of the most memorable things happened in my earliest years. I was performing at Vadelma-festivaali in Helsinki. I didn’t know anything about the festival, and when I got there, I saw that the venue was a squatted house in the middle of nowhere, and it resembled very much of a dodgy drug house filled with acid-smoking hippies. And of course I was like ”yup, of course I’m gonna do my show here!” I was so determined to just finish my set I ignored the guy who walked behind me in the middle of the set and started drumming bongos. He probably thought he was helping. He wasn’t.
On the opposite of that spectrum is a recent show I did at DTM. I participated in the first Drag Battle event in Helsinki with a bigot, gay-hating, chauvinistic racist character called Ilja-Jani Skin, that I created based on a real person in Finland. The show was a success, people laughed and I got like 4 applause breaks in a short time.
If you could choose, which artist would you like to see live? Dead or alive.
Bianca Del Rio and Bob the Drag Queen. They’re both drag queens that also do stand up.
Future projects we should know about?
I’m doing a comedy play in Rovaniemi’s Lentävän Poron Teatteri during this summer. It’s gonna be very interesting, and if you’re in Rovaniemi in July or the beginning of August, you should definitely come check it out! Also, the 3rd annual Arctic Laughs Comedy Festival is coming up in the beginning of December 2016, so mark your calendars!
Tell us about your regular hang out? Have you ever had a comedy show there?
I would have to say my flat. And no, I don’t do stand up -shows in my flat. At least not in public. I very seldom hang out anywhere besides home, and if I do, it’s usually after a gig. I’m not a party animal. Unless it’s a birthday party and there’s cake. Preferably chocolate.
Which artist would you like to see being interview by BTA? Which one question would you ask them?
Linnea von Kattendam, Ali Jahangiri.
Good choices Bahar! Thanks for the interview. We see rest of you guys next week for another BTA Artist Interview.