On Comedy Game Night, Liza Tarbuck hosts as a series of celebrities compete against each other in a series of fun party-like challenges. We caught up with team captain and Man Like Mobeen creator-star Guz Khan to hear about the show, what’s next for Mobeen and the gang, how television is still failing at representation, and why he reckons his gags might cause hardline home secretary Priti Patel to deport his relatives.
How has lockdown been for you Guz?
“It’s been so sick. I’ve loved it. Listen bro, I’m a lazy motherfucker at the best of times, so when someone offers me the opportunity to be in the house and just shouting at the neighbours through my window and linking my mates up on the garden wall, I felt like I was in Year 11 again.”
And you’ve got new panel show Comedy Game Night coming out…
“Bro, I’ve never really done panel shows – like Have I Got News for You? – and the reason why is because there’s a lot of mighty competitive stand-ups on those shows fighting for the limelight. With this show, we’re creating an environment where all that bullshit is put aside. It’s like we’ve all actually linked up at somebody’s house, and it allows someone who’s a singer or a reality star to show their funny side without a stand-up shouting over them. Stand-ups don’t make me laugh the most – it’s real people like the brother who stands outside Lidl.”
Who’s your favourite celebrity to appear on the show?
“I was sat in my chair waiting for the show to start, and then across the room, like it was slow-motion and smoke everywhere, Kriss Akabusi walked in the room! I lost my shit! I jumped out of my chair and kept screaming: KRISS AKABUSI! And he was like: ‘AWWWW! THAT’S ME!”. We got the best Akabusi you’ve seen on TV for 20 years – it was peak Akabusi. I want to do a travelogue with that legend.”
Will there be another series of your beloved sitcom Man Like Mobeen?
“I’d love to go again. The main thing is nobody knows what’s going on with scheduling and filming at the moment, so even if we go ahead with series four of Man Like Mobeen, and I’ve got some exciting ideas – I definitely feel that part of the story would have to be told in Pakistan this time – but the problem is, the backlog of scheduling goes back to 2022, so I’ve got to make a real choice based on timelines and people’s interest. If we can’t make the show within a good framework, I might have to leave it where it is.”
How would the Man Like Mobeen characters have coped in lockdown?
“They wouldn’t have adhered to social distancing – that’s all you need to know! Mobeen and Nate are currently in prison so if we go for series four – which is hopefully on the cards – we’re going to have to explore what COVID was like for those two in prison. Aqsa is a doctor now in the show so she would have been saving people’s lives on the frontline.”
- Read more: Man Like Mobeen star Guz Khan: “Anyone can make a generic sitcom – but we want to present real issues”
Your pinned tweet is a scene from Man Like Mobeen featuring a joke about Priti Patel captioned: ‘Someone, and I’m not saying who, got so vexed with this scene, they had it removed from Facebook. I wonder who that might have been?’
“Yeah man! Come on! I get myself in plenty of trouble – including apparently getting sacked from Uber as the Uber delivery guy on the adverts [following another tweet about the home secretary]. But some people advised me against that from the beginning, saying: ‘For a guy that doesn’t want to do stereotypes, you only went and fucking became the Uber delivery guy!’. I thought: ‘Fair point!’”
So someone, and I’m not saying who, got so vexed with this scene, that they had it removed from Facebook…
I wonder who that might have been?
— Guztavo Khanage (@GuzKhanOfficial) January 27, 2020
That’s why you need a series four of Man Like Mobeen – to finally win over the home secretary…
“Can I just say I don’t want Priti Patel to deport any of my aunties and uncles on some loophole that might be out there. Everyone’s here legally – wink, wink – so Priti, chill yourself, it’s jokes baby.”
Any other politicians been in touch?
“Yeah, Tommy Corbyn is a huge fan of the show and says he’s watched it with his dad [former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn] a few times but conversely, Sayeeda Warsi [former Tory party chair], who’s someone I might not politically see eye-to-eye with, enjoys the show and saw a lot of life stories in it that she knows from her own family and social circles. Good comedy for me cuts through everything.”
Last time we saw you it was at the NME Awards. Did you have fun?
“At the best of times, I’m always ready to swing it out so when your man Slowthai started kicking off with somebody, me and two security guards were like: ‘Yeah – it’s time to swing it out baby!’ I was accosted by somebody who offered me psychedelics – and I had the shaft of my penis squeezed randomly by somebody. So if you want to go to any awards show, that’s the one – psychedelics, penis-squeezing and fights ensue. What more do you want from an evening bro?!”
You don’t get that at the Baftas…
“Mate, I’ll advertise that shit for you – #YouDon’tGetThatAtTheBafta.”
When you started out, you said you wanted to write about real lives that aren’t shown on screen, and hoped Man Like Mobeen might help more people from your background get in front of and behind the camera. Has anything changed?
“I’m still waiting for men and women like me to make the jump and unfortunately I don’t think that’s taken place. Every time I turn up on a set, it’s people who’ve been to a guildhall or through some form of training. The industry isn’t doing enough to get real voices through to tell their stories. I’m driven on ensuring that a girl sat in a council estate in Middlesbrough with a wicked story gets a chance to tell it.”
Can it get better in the future?
“What’s going to make it worse is COVID-19, because the backlog of programs means that the priority to make sure you’re casting your net out and finding the right people might have rescinded a bit. My production company is looking in all the places where everyone else isn’t necessarily, and we’re working on exciting projects. If you’ve got a great story to tell and are from the same position as I am – working-class – and have a great idea, we promise our production company is going to be there to look out for you.”
TV presenter David Olusoga recently told Edinburgh TV festival that the TV industry has failed a “lost generation” of “black and brown people” – would you agree?
“Whether it be TV shows or music, there are very real conversations taking place about what it means to be a minority who functions in this game. When I ask my musician friends who were absolutely shafted on their first deals what the boardroom was like, it’s everything that’s wrong with this game – it’s people hellbent on maximising their profit and minimising the other person. I’ve definitely been through those experiences – I learned quickly and made sure it never happened again. It can’t be tokenistic ‘let’s get more black and brown faces in here’, it’s got to be ‘let’s educate them so they can build and help other people’. Whenever we talk about diversity, it’s only in terms of ‘Hey, I’ll give you a go’ – that’s not the way it should work.”
So – name drop Guz! – which musicians are you friends with?
“It’s people I’ve looked up to like Lowkey or local MCs like Jaykae. I’m living the dream! When it comes to acting, it’s incredible to have someone like Idris Elba [who he worked with on Turn Up Charlie] call me up a few weeks ago and say: ‘Yo, we need to get on this because I think I can get this out of you as a performer’.”
Is there something in the pipeline with Idris then?
“Yeah. Me and Idris are working on two new shows together that are still in the early stages – one is comedic, one more dramatic, and that should be exciting when we get further with them. Then I’m working on four other exciting projects of my own, which will be as authentic and good-vibes as Man Like Mobeen.”