Ahir Shah has a tremendous knack for making people laugh uncontrollably while simultaneously forcing them to confront a bleak political reality. His whole set, in fact, is an exercise in cultural and political critique. At breakneck speed – and with boundless passion – Shah gets his teeth into issues like racism, the grimness of the housing market, Brexit, and what it’s actually like to belong to a marginalised group when it’s a “difficult time to stay optimistic”.
This might be a stand-up comedy show, but Shah does an impeccable job of never once trivialising the injustices he addresses. His impossibly energetic delivery doesn’t detract from the gravity of the problems described. Even when he’s abstractly comparing failed relationships to weak trade agreements, he’s still making a sharp, intelligent observation.
‘Intelligent’ is a key word here. Shah’s branch of comedy is shrewd and insightful, and lexically marvellous; his gags are presented in flowing, elaborate language that captivates the room. His jokes about existing as a millennial will be painfully relevant for some, and thought-provoking enough to make the previously unconvinced think, “actually, maybe the media’s frequent criticisms of young people’s brunching habits IS political, after all!”
Shah knows how to weld wit with social consciousness, and he demonstrates this for the entire duration of his set. He’ll have you chuckling hard – and possibly thinking even harder.
Words: Morgan Laing
Ahir Shah: Control, Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire, Aug 8-27, times vary