Adil Ray’s BBC prime-time sitcom Citizen Khan follows the trials and tribulations of self-appointed community leader Mr Khan (played by Adil) and his wife and daughters.
It launched to rave reviews, with The Sun, Guardian and Daily Mail featuring it for their ‘Pick of the Day’ and The Express calling it their ‘Critic’s Choice’.
Adil began performing various Asian-based characters on his radio show at the BBC Asian Network in 2002. He then developed Mr Khan for the BBC2 comedy Bellamy’s People after being approached by Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson.
Adil says: ‘It was not too long after 9/11 and local news reporters would go to a local Muslim area, find the Muslim with the longest beard and put him in front of the mosque and ask him why Muslims 5,000 miles away were doing something. And rather than do the sensible thing and walk away, this guy would button his shirt up, dust down his suit, and go, “OK, this is my five minutes of fame”. That always used to make me laugh, so that’s where it came from for Bellamy’s People, which was a satirical show.’
Mr Khan then appeared in his own programmes for BBC Comedy Online, Adil’s radio comedy pilot Sparkhill Sound and The Real Mr Khan – a documentary looking at the work of community leaders, both for BBC Radio 4.
In 2012, Citizen Khan launched as its own BBC 1 comedy show. The series was commissioned by Danny Cohen, Controller BBC One and Cheryl Taylor, Controller of Comedy Commissioning.
The show attracted a staggering 3.6 million viewers in the 10.35 pm slot and became one of the most watched shows on the BBC iPlayer in 2012. Citizen Khan is now going into its fourth series.
The character of Mr Khan is someone Adil has been inadvertently working on since childhood, and is inspired by many people in Adil’s own life.
Adil explains: ‘From a young age I remember being fascinated by adults. While my cousins played I’d sit with the grown-ups and watch and study adults. Some of Mr Khan’s characteristics have come from my family, my dad, bits of me. I had a distant uncle who used to wear Mr Khan’s hat. I also think there’s a bit of him in all of us – because in the end all he wants is to be loved and respected.’
Adil is hugely proud of having put a Muslim family at the heart of a British sitcom. He says: ‘I have always loved British sitcom. As a kid, I remember watching sitcoms with my mum and dad. I remember thinking that although they were white characters, they reminded me of people in my family. My hope with Citizen Khan is that despite Mr Khan being a bearded, 70s-suit-wearing community-leading Muslim, we all recognise in him someone we know…’
Adil co-writes Citizen Khan with Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta, whose previous credits include Goodness Gracious Me and Meet the Kumars.