Going Hollywood: Meet Fahim Anwar

People were going Hollywood long before Bing Crosby starred in the 1933 film musical Going Hollywood. Certainly, though, countless unknowns have packed their bags and moved to Los Angeles in the years and decades since then, hoping for show business to discover them and make them a star! New York City may be the city everyone goes to make it there before making it everywhere, but Hollywood remains the place where stars are born and made. It’s Show Business, USA. This is a recurring feature, a complementary West Coast version of Meet Me In New York, The Comic’s Comic’s mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of the Southland surrounding Los Angeles. It’s called Going Hollywood.

I don’t remember seeing Fahim Anwar in Seattle before I moved out of the Emerald City what seems like forever ago. Most likely Anwar was still an aerospace engineer at Boeing back then. Since then, he left that career for one in comedy. He made “New Faces” at Montreal’s Just For Laughs in 2010, and since then his credits include a guest-starring turn on NBC’s Chuck, roles on Showtime’s Californication and MTV’s Disaster Date, performing stand-up on Russell Simmons Presents Stand-Up at the El Rey, and providing commentary on E! clip shows.

Get to know Fahim before you see his next star turn!

Name: Fahim Anwar
Arrival date: September 2006
Arrived from: Seattle, Wash.
When and where did you start performing comedy? I started stand-up in Seattle at the very end of my senior year of high school. I actually wanted to perform stand-up for the talent show but my school banned comedy from the talent show as they felt comedy was more prone to offending people than other art forms. Some real Footloose shit. I was pretty upset about this and organized a separate comedy night event for students that would happen outside of school hours and not be subject to that type of scrutiny. We had kids do sketch, improv and I decided to do 30 minutes for my first stab at stand-up which looking back is RIDICULOUS. If a tape of this exists it must be cast into the fires of Mount Doom. I did really well but they were all my friends and it was a very insular environment. One of the improv comedy teachers was there and suggested that I do an open mic at the Comedy Underground in Seattle. She basically held my hand to my first open mic and then I just kept up on my own.

What was your best credit before moving here?
I mean, I had nothing major going for me when I moved out to LA. I had a mechanical engineering degree and jokes. I had the opportunity to open for Michael Bublé on a few tour dates back home but couldn’t because of school. I like to jokingly imagine my life would be totally different if I did those dates. Another credit is I was the youngest to win this comedy competition called the Giggle’s Laugh Off when I was 19. All this reminiscing is tempting me to throw these accomplishments back onto my theatrical resume. A few TV credits followed by “Almost opened for Michael Bublé.”

Why did you pick LA over NYC or anywhere else?
I picked LA over NYC because I’m a West Coast kid. It’s a short plane ride home and ultimately I feel there are far more opportunities in LA. If it’s strictly a standup argument then I can see how NYC edges out but I like doing many things and LA is better suited for that. I do stand-up and sketch, maybe I’ll book an acting gig here and there. I like bouncing between mediums.

How long did it take to get your first paid gig in LA after moving here?
Are we talking about a free meal or drink tickets doing a show? Because that happened sooner than making actual money. I can’t pinpoint the exact first show I made money but I’m fairly certain about the type of show I first got paid for. Usually, it’s some bar show in Costa Mesa or Huntington Beach. You show up, the crowd is rowdy and don’t want to hear constructed jokes. They just want to hear men are different than women and racial stuff. You hate yourself after your set but leave with 20 dollars. Rinse and repeat.

How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you started in?
I feel very fortunate to have started my stand-up career in Seattle. The crowds are great, well-educated and willing to listen. You can climb the club ranks rather quickly as well. Politics exist everywhere but in a smaller market things are less obfuscated. Having four years in Seattle gave me a great foundation but there’s a glass ceiling. The Pacific Northwest is tucked away and has little exposure unlike a San Francisco or Boston, which have scenes that are close enough to the bigger scenes to get noticed. Eventually, you have to make the jump. When I got to LA it was so hard to get stage time. I was in a new scene and one of the most saturated scenes in the country. That creative frustration is what led me into YouTube shorts, which is now something that runs in parallel with my standup. It’s cool to have sketch work for the members of my group (Goatface Comedy) as well as stand-up. That lack of quality stage time is just something everyone has to slog through but now things are good.

If you lived and performed in NYC, how would you compare working as a comedian in Hollywood to that previous experience?
I have only been to NY for three days on my way back from visiting Europe. I did my buddy Andy Haynes’ (also from Seattle) show while I was out there. It was fun but I didn’t get to experience the true NYC stand-up scene. It was funny being in Time Square as a tourist and getting barked at to check out stand-up. I wanted to be like “…I’m one of you” but I let them finish their spiel.

Was there a moment when you felt your life and career really had “gone Hollywood,” and how do you explain it to friends or family back home?
When someone from back home told me they were flipping through Rolling Stone magazine and saw my picture. This made absolutely no sense to me so I of course had to track down a magazine and there it was. Rolling Stone had a “hot list” of things to check out and the music video Goatface made for the the hip-hop group Das Racist was mentioned, so they used a still of me from the video. And then there’s always that moment when you’re visiting back home watching TV with your family and every five seconds you’re like “I know him, I know her, I know him” and that’s kind of weird. I remember watching my first television appearance on NBC’s Chuck with my family. That was surreal. I recently featured for my buddy Bobby Lee back home and we’d hangout/eat after shows with my friends. I think having a celebrity at the table made them see this little comedy thing I do more legitimately. All this stuff seems like fantasy via Facebook but you bring it in front of someone’s face it’s more powerful.

What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?
Comics come out here and they want to go straight to the Taj Mahal. They’ll try to break in at The Comedy Store or The Laugh Factory as soon as their wheels touch down. Talk about a tall order. There are hilarious guys who have been doing it several years who are still trying to crack that nut. That stuff works itself out. Your main concern should be packing out your week with spots. Name of the game is stage time. It doesn’t matter where. I’m not saying force yourself to do shows that are terrible but there are great shows you can sniff out that are off the beaten path. All you need is an audience. I used to do this show every Thursday in Orange, Calif., at Lucky Strike Lanes, which is a bowling alley. Seems odd but I’d get 25 minutes and it was a great place to work material.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I’d like to have an hour or half-hour. Pop up in TV and movies from time to time. My dream is for Goatface to cement itself more and more as a comedic brand where we are in a position to generate films, a sketch show, half-hour scripted, etc… I enjoy generating content more than being plugged in as an actor. I strive to have the career of guys like Louis CK, Ricky Gervais, or Larry David who wear many hats and whose product is ultimately them. At the end of the day, though, I’m perfectly content if I’m able to make a decent living doing comedy in any capacity. That’s my only requisite for success in my book.

You can see Fahim Anwar performing in clubs and comedy rooms around Los Angeles, on the road at his schedule page (he’s opening for Bobby Lee on multiple dates), or online performing in video with his sketch group, Goatface. Here is a clip The Laugh Factory in Hollywood just posted today of Fahim Anwar, joking about girls you see out at the nightclubs.

Is there a comedian in Los Angeles that you’d like to see me style and profile for another installment of Going Hollywood? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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