Ahir Shah appears to defy the ‘nobody loves a smartass’ sentiment – his brand-new Monkey Barrel venue is jam-packed with fans. This man is super-smart and boy, does he know it, so smart that he can lob the word ‘opine’ in his set and make it sound sexy.
Like last year, the Cambridge graduate is one of the hottest tickets in town. As the audience scramble for spare seats, he prowls the room practising his facial exercises. It’s a judicious move – that mouth has a barrage of jokes and flotilla of facts to deliver in this turbo-charged hour.
He opens with the ‘posh voice for a British Indian’ routine, which although funny, was handled very similarly in Duffer – last year’s award-nominated show. There’s an early and not-unexpected booting for Boris and Shah’s collective noun for a group of Tory MP’s is spookily on the money. He sneers his way through a cynical inspection and dissection of the term ‘person of colour.’ Who knew he and Beyonce were related?
Shah admits that his internal monologue is stuck on caps lock and it appears that his external monologue is cranked up to eleven, as in parts this is properly shouty. There are clever call-backs and sharp one-liners – including a couple with a delicious double-helping of cheese – as Shah hurtles through an eclectic range of subjects such as vaping, romantic love, Mexican holidays and the sociologist Max Weber at breakneck speed.
It does feel somewhat fragmented, however. Last year, his beloved gran was the glue that held the set together and gave it soul. There are family stories here too, but his father’s mispronunciations and mantras just don’t hold the same magic. It’s left once again to the woman he loved “to his very bone marrow” to create a special, thought-provoking and extremely funny moment as Shah contemplates the religious responsibilities placed on his father at his grandmother’s funeral, and as the eldest child, how he’ll cope when it’s his turn.