Ahir Shah is one of those comics with a burgeoning reputation, his current show, Duffer, which I caught at The Lowry, was nominated for the 2017 Edinburgh Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (where else I hear you ask) and is a set that deals with the thorny subjects of mortality, religion and .. well Bohemian Rhapsody.
Great comics have often used their ethnicity and heritage to their advantage, ploughing this rich furtive source to find much mirth and hilarity to be shared with like minded souls. Think Lenny Henry, think Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock, think Jackie Mason. But only younger.
Ahir Shah’s done exactly that, without actually feeling like it’s a show completely aimed at a specific demographic talking about exactly the kind of things that demographic likes to talk about. Duffer, the Hindi word for clown or fool (probably found in all of the Indo-European family of languages like Urdu, Punjabi or Hinglish – yeah I went there) deals with his family, going back to India, the death of his Uncle and his grandmother’s worsening health, all bringing into focus his anxieties and observations on what these situations throw up. A goldmine for a burgeoning comic I think you’ll find.
Shah is one of those comics who is annoyingly likeable. Most good comics need to be affectionately affectatious to some degree, because their whole god damn act depends on it. If you cannot establish some sort of rapport, then your storytelling is gonna probably fall by the wayside. Lucky for us then Shah is rapport friendly and does what all good comics do and have the audience eating out of his hand.
He has a whimsical style to his delivery, not one of those comics where its a cheesy gag and they stand back to milk the applause. No, Shah has a meandering style that all great indie-esque comedians possess. His act has also been wonderfully crafted. Yes, there are plenty of in jokes for us ethnics to appreciate (I especially loved his filling out a form on the Indian Government’s website that speaks of the paranoia between themselves and noisy neighbours Pakistan), but there is lot of a universality to the themes Shah discusses that means it doesn’t really matter what your background is, if its funny, its funny.
Talking of funny, Shah isn’t laugh out loud funny.
But that’s OK. He is funny, more in a chuckle kind of way, or a wry smile, or a chortle followed by an abrupt grunt. I find that Shah is never more comfortable than when he is in full flow, meandering about the comparisons between cultures or making insightful clever political insights. This is what makes Shah such a good comic, he has honed his skills and his subject matter and gets us in the audience to go along with him.
Verdict: A hilarious and touching routine from one of UK brightest comedic talents, Ahir Shah. His affectionate style has the audience in raptures.