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Ahir Shah: Astrology

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Julia Chamberlain

Ahir Shah was named by his mum and dad after a Hindu astrologer said it would be auspicious to name him with an A or V, because of his birthdate and time.  The chart also gave some of bland encouragement to his parents about the likely nature of the first-born, as you might expect from a horoscope.  The Microsoft spellcheck makes a mess of his name.

Several years after birth he went to Cambridge, which doesn’t make him better than us, he says, but he doesn’t seem entirely convinced by the idea. He’s a bit of a computer whizz, but he’s doing politics at Uni. So far, so what.

Let me go easy here, because he’s very young and perhaps like some other very young comedians, he’s been catapulted in to doing a solo hour before he’s got anything particular to say.  Doing routines about their name is something that new acts do in their first ten minutes when there’s literally nothing else to talk about, but three years into his career, he’s inflated that to a whole show!

He’s bright, articulate, confident and has a certain amount of presence, but he is forced here to make an hour of something from which you could pick the meat off the bones within five minutes. Everything is declaimed with such blazing conviction, it put me in mind of the old saw: ‘Quick, grab a teenager while they still know everything’.

But that’s all he can be expected to have, vehemence and naïve solipsism, he’s 20 for crying out loud. We wouldn’t normally expect to have to listen to some perky adolescent for an hour unless he was a blood relative, and that would still be a bit of a test.

He uses repetition, pushing it until tiresome becomes funny (or not) and has the gall to use the ‘And if you don’t get it/ clap that/ find it funny/ it’s because you’re a racist’ as a get out of jail card for a lame joke.

It does get interesting when other people are involved – his father’s experience moving to the UK, dealing with the English Defence League, shows a bit of human warmth, the casual contempt of the Debating Society at Cambridge determinedly getting his name wrong at every turn, but this really is a victory of confidence over content.

And I consider it vaguely insulting to other comedians that he says this isn’t even his dream, he’s only doing comedy as second best because he’s not good enough to be a rockstar. I’m sure it is intended as a joke, but even there’s but a grain of truth, it’s a slap round the chops for every act who’s here who’s not in a nice smart, central venue with socking great big posters.

He is a hardworking comedian, if not a natural one, and in my opinion he might have waited a bit to do a solo show, when he had something a bit more weighty than just the fact of his existence to offer up.

Review date: 19 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain

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