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Imran Yusuf: Bring The Thunder

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Like Jack Whitehall before him, Imran Yusuf has mastered the techniques of stand-up impressively quickly. He’s energetic, charismatic and knows all the tricks inside-out – from the well-timed pause to encourage the applause break to the purposeful execution of a callback.

Over the last few months, he’s got looser in his delivery, although some moments still feel like behaviour that learned rather than innate. The question now is whether he can bring up the material to the same standard… and although Bring The Thunder doesn’t quite push the envelope hard enough, it does nothing to dampen the promise that won him the best newcomer nomination last year.

Crucially, he has a driving passion. When David Cameron glibly made a speeches to the effect that ‘multiculturalism has failed’, you can expect this African-born, London-raised Muslim to take issue. Who’s to deny him any strand of his identity, including his Britishness? Equally, Islam4UK’s self-aggrandising shit-stirrer Anjem Choudary doesn’t speak for him when he calls for sharia law in Britain. Surely, Yusuf convincingly argues, the Arab Spring has convinced us that the last thing most Muslims want is another religious dictatorship.

He has a little fun with the idea of angry Muslims, and the terrorist stereotype – but just when you think he’s pandering to it, he pulls the rug away. And although this show covers social politics, it’s not wholly defined by it. Yusuf is just as concerned as any comic with reminiscing about how kids today don’t really the true meaning of shit presents, of pointing out the difference between men and women – and with pulling that attractive Swedish girl who seems to elude him.

Yes, there are a few hack subjects here, yes he overplays a few gags (especially the one about the Kokni sect of Islam he comes from) and yes that tongue-in-cheek ‘cos I’m gangsta’ catchphrase wears a bit thin. But he speaks with a self-deprecating wit, a lightness of touch and more importantly an enthusiasm that makes him seem a lot more youthful than his 31 years, and there’s no question he carries the audience with him on his journey, which ends with a nice payoff anecdote at a holy site in Jerusalem.

Yusuf’s had a lot of industry heat in the past 12 months – and has a BBC Three pilot on the way. I think he’s yet to hit that gobsmacking show of which he may well be capable, but I can certainly understand the appeal.

Review date: 9 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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