Paul Sinha: Saint or Sinha?

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Two years ago, Paul Sinha made his Edinburgh debut with an
engaging but unremarkable discussion of the Richard Curtis film
Love, Actually; a quirky but generic topic almost any comic could
have tackled. Well now he's back ­ and this time it's personal.

Looking honestly into his fears, feelings and failings has
given him a new sense of purpose, giving a coruscating insight
into not only to his own life, but the world that surrounds him.
He's got opinion, attitude, intelligence and a quiver full of
devastatingly good jokes. In the past two years, Sinha's matured
into a major comedic force with important things to say.

His new-found voice stems from the fact that he's open gay
­ even though almost no one believes him, not even Channel
4's comedy chief. He doesn't fit that stereotypical ideal of
a well-groomed gym rat obsessing about his image, nor does he
perform with the exaggerated but accepted campery so prevalent
among gay TV presenters. He's an overweight, East Bengali football
fan, who's fully trained as a GP.

Because he doesn't match the supposed gay photofit, he often
finds himself deep undercover in Heteroland, with the most laddish
of lads assuming he's one of them. That way he becomes an eavesdropper
on the casual homophobia of a stag do, when the rest of the gang,
unaware of his sexuality, call him a puff not because he's attracted
to men, but because he can't handle his beer and curry.

The nub of the show is his cowardice in not confronting this,
or any other potential social embarrassment, even though he knows
he morally ought to. He fails to tell a squaddie that his nigger
jokes might just be offensive; he doesn't stand up to the loud-mouthed
teenage hoodie with bad attitude harassing the bus driver; and,
most crucially, he doesn't tell his father, a traditional ultra-conservative,
about his sexuality.

Sinha is refreshingly balanced in his outlook. He's a pragmatist
with an astute grasp of the ambiguities of life. Many a comic
will rant and rave about how the world should be; Sinha tells
us how it is, and what's more he does so with a brilliant, affable

The hour is packed full of gags, most of which come as a sucker
punch to an audience is too absorbed in his frank anecdotes to
anticipate them. Some come at the expense of the ubergeezers,
some at the expense of himself, and some are just because he's
a middle-class pedant who overreacts at trivial transgressions
in the way he thinks things should be.

Saint Or Sinha could have been a simple attack on the ignorant
and the brutish who blight our lives, but it's more complex ­
and surprisingly more optimistic ­ than that. Sinha's so
clearly a man who's done his thinking, and the result in an impressive,
funny, insightful hour that should be on every Fringe-goers 'to
do' list.

Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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