Monday, April 30

Meera Syal's Asian Comedy Night

First some full disclosure: I don't think brown people are funny. I think that Muslims are even less funny. Don't get me wrong, I personally know of exceptions (no, not you) like Aziz Ansari and the indefinitely missing Imran J.K., but in terms of those who "represent us" on the circuit I would say a dead pigeon has more humour.

So yes, needless to say I wasn't particularly enthused about tonight's showcase of Asian comedic talent. But since I like to support brown people and the BBC AN anyway, I thought that since I had the opportunity to go I should. Who knows, I might even get a little bit surprised.

Although the night was being hosted by Meera Syal, it was clear that she was not much more than a poster girl on the night. Tommy was more of a host than she was, and the whole faux laboured interview thing they kept doing did get a little tiring after a while. But still, they broke up the acts I guess.

Which brings us to, uh, the acts. Let's take them one by one.

Ah, Shazia Mirza. I don't think hate is the right word to describe how I feel toward her. Perhaps dislike? Obviously it's because she's a woman or something. That said I have to begrudgingly admit that she wasn't that bad tonight and although I didn't laugh at all her jokes some did make me genuinely laugh out loud.

Next up was Mickey Sharma. In a night like this there is always an act that will bomb and unfortunately for Mickey his was the one that did. It's a shame because he does actually seem like a funny guy, you know the type that would keep you amused during dinner... but I guess that just didn't translate this time.

Imran Yusuf was actually one of the reasons I decided to attend tonight. Friends who had seen and heard him promised me I was in for a treat, so I just had to witness him for myself if only to tell these same friends how bad their sense of humour was. And although his content was lacking and I guessed most of his jokes (I can't have been the only one to have played on the Kokni Muslim pun, and the whole English-Sport-Fan-Unless-It's-Cricket could have been seen a mile away), I have to say that his delivery and personality were spot on. Looking at his work on Youtube afterwards I will even say that he's brilliant, so I can only wonder why he was so muted on the stage. Perhaps the audience he was playing to had something to do with it - but more of that later.

Sami Shah was absolutely brilliant, and not just because he was a native Pakistani doing his act live over Skype from Bangkok. He hit that sweet spot of observational humour, delivery, self-deprecation and sophistication that all the other acts lacked in parts, and I will say that he alone salvaged the whole night for me. I'm such a fan that I'm even going to plug his blog, here: Perhaps it's just British Asians that aren't funny?

Even this sentence is too many words for the next act Asian Provocateur. "Help the Kensington poor"? Really?

Hyde Panesar came second to Mickey Sharma in terms of bombing, and it was equally a shame because he did seem quite funny. I can't really remember much of his act but I did laugh a few times.

And then we had Hamza Badman. Since you're on the internet already I won't bother giving you the background. I've personally never been impressed by his stuff, but judging by the reception he gets that makes me the failure, not him. Tonight didn't really change my opinion - he's definitely more style than substance - but the audience lapped him up and I can't knock him for that, since that would make me a hater.

Finally we had Kulvinder Ghir of GGM fame. I've never quite forgiven any of the GGM four for that show (and am always dismayed at how high we actually place it), but I do like Kulvinder et al as people and artists. Even though most of his act was lost on the audience I thought de did okay tonight, doing a bit of roleplay instead of straight stand up and we were even treated to a GGM rendition of Why This Kolaveri Di which was amusing for the first minute of the three it played for.

And finally we had the audience. Without wanting too much to sound like I hate my own kind they were as young and foolish as expected, ultimately showing how unsophisticated brown humour is. And thinking about it further, how Imran Yusuf in particular seems to be much funnier when playing a non-exclusively brown audience, I think I'm starting to understand why brown comics are how they are. It might just be because as a community we're not able to appreciate humour above a certain level and are instead perfectly happy repeatedly laughing at clingfilmed remote controls, curry-in-icecream-tubs and shallow and obvious satire. And if there's no demand for sophisticated Asian humour, why would anyone bother?

But still, I did go away encouraged by tonight and overall I had a pretty good time. I really want to see Imran Yusuf in a different context and really hope that I come across Sami Shah again. Hopefully by supporting the good we can get more of it out there eventually.


  1. be a hater! Badman...I just do not get it. Utter buffoonery.
    Seems brown people can only laugh when brown people act like idiots.

  2. Mash,

    Simple minds and all that. Unfortunately he's popular, and that's why we'll only get more of him.

  3. Your funny! perhaps need a change of career and pave the way for future Muslim and Asian comedians!