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Fighting stigma with hilarity

author: charlotte jones contributor

Laughter is the best medicine has never been truer thanks to Khan and Stand Up for Change. | Public domain.

Mental Health Awareness Show bringing laughs and serious talk to The Owl.

Local comedian Haris Khan will be hosting a talk and comedy night on mental health on Saturday, Jan. 28 in The Owl. The event’s purpose is to open a conversation about mental health and aims to end the stigma surrounding people who live with mental health issues. There will be professional speakers talking about mental health followed by professional comedians and poets.

Headlining the show is rising star of Canadian comedy Ryan Ash. Ash is a Canadian-born comedian that has made four appearances at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest, including a “Best of Fest” gala. He has appeared in clubs and theatres nationwide and has been the opening act for Patrice O’Neal, Tracy Morgan, and Doug Stanhope. Ash has produced over 80 episodes of The Week Thus Far, a satirical news TV show of which he is a founding member. He will be headed to Regina to promote mental health in the funniest way he knows how alongside host Haris Khan.

Khan is a Saskatchewan comedian, Future 40 winner, and student at the University of Regina. He recently opened for Christ D’Elia and Don Burnstick, as well as having the privilege to be one of the few non-Aboriginal comedians to perform on First Nation reserves. His first solo comedy tour (entitled the Haris Khan and Friends Tour) took him to sold-out venues across Canada, Pakistan, Oman, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Khan is no newcomer to utilizing comedy for a good cause.

“I found mental health is a taboo subject in our society and if you have mental issues, then people tend to treat you differently, so it’s hard to talk about these problems,” says Khan.

He is president of the University of Regina student group, Stand Up for Change, where he works together alongside a team of highly motivated students to host comedy shows which highlight various social issues in a free and safe environment. Events organized by the group such as Stand Up for the Homeless People, Stand Up Against Domestic Violence, Stand Up for Alberta Flood Victims, Stand Up for Animal Welfare, and most recently Stand Up for Humanity have been widely supported throughout the community, raising over $20,000. Stand Up for Change has now turned their organizational and comedic skills towards another worthy cause: mental health awareness.

“I found that some students at the U of R that had some problems didn’t want to come forward or accept it as an established problem,” says Khan. “They were confused and didn’t know what was wrong; it was affecting their classes and their personal lives. They thought they were stupid because that’s how they were being treated.”

Khan went on to explain that the point of this series of shows is to break the ice about the more sensitive topics in our society. He emphasized the need to create awareness around these subjects, especially mental health, to let people know that they aren’t alone and that they don’t need to be shy about the problems that they face daily.

The doors open at 6:30 p.m. with free admission, and the show starts at 7:00 p.m. in The Owl.

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