Dream comes true for Peterborough comedy award-winner

On stage Jay does character comedy but also tackles political and social issues. Photo supplied
On stage Jay does character comedy but also tackles political and social issues. Photo supplied
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A 31-year-old comedian from Peterborough who specialises in adult humour is living out his childhood dream after being inspired by the bright lights of Hollywood and Las Vegas.

Netherton resident Jay Islaam took the plunge last year into the world of comedy when he turned up at the Edinburgh Fringe on a whim, and convinced the organisers to let him up on stage.

Now, he returns to the festival as the winner of ‘Best Breakthrough Act’ at a competition final in Nottingham and is looking to one day become a professional comedian.

For Jay, who by day works as a marketing consultant, it would mean the realisation of his lifelong ambition after using his experiences in the US to help overcome stage fright.

“Being a comedian is a terrifying idea for most people. That fear kept me off stage for a long time,” he said.

“I lived in the US and went to lots of comedy clubs in New York, Hollywood and Las Vegas. It inspired me to pursue my childhood dream.

“Last year I went to the Edinburgh Fringe on a whim for 10 days to see if I could do some short spots.

“There were lots of drop-outs late in the day as the pressure gets to people. I ended up doing 20 shows in those 10 days as a newbie.

“There was a mixed response. Looking back my performances were far below what they are now, but the audience were fairly positive, which gave me confidence.”

That new confidence took Jay to open mic shows across the country in a bid to sharpen his material and get used to being on stage.

It eventually saw him make it to the final of the ‘Breakthrough’ competition in Bingham, Nottingham, on July 25 after a series of regional heats featured more than 100 comedians from across the country.

And once there, he out-scored the other gag tellers in the eyes of the six judges - which included comedy professionals - to land his award and earn £150.

Jay has two different shows which he performs. One night he can be caricaturing anti-English and snooty Frenchmen, while the next he can be cracking jokes on political and social matters.

He describes his latter routine as being “like Frankie Boyle but not angry and swearing.”

With a routine which is laced with adult humour, it is always possible that some members of the audience take the material more seriously than it is meant to be.

“There is always the potential of someone taking offence,” said Jay. “You have to gently mock them or make it obvious that it’s not real.”

Fortunately for his sake, the worst abuse he has received has come in the form of emails and Facebook messages.

It does not help Jay’s cause that no members of the crowd are filled with family members. As he says: “My family have never seen me perform and have never asked to. My friends came once and they enjoyed it.”

For now the 31-year-old - who classes Lenny Bruce and George Carlin as among his comedy heroes due to their forthright material - is looking to get back on stage where his comedy career really kicked off, when he returns for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe which takes place throughout this month.

And if Jay continues his upwards progression going forward, it’s possible he might one-day be able to pack in the day-job and go all-out on living his comedy dream.

“I’m hoping to get better and learn my craft. And further down the line maybe I’ll pursue it full-time,” he said.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and if I get better it might become a reality.”