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AHIR SHAH: CONTROL

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Comedy

Venue:Cabaret Voltaire, 36-38 Blair Street Edinburgh EH1 1QR
Phone: 0131 247 4704
Links: Click Here for venue details, Click here for map
Ticket Prices: Free  
Room: Main Room
AUG 3-27 at 14:00 (60 min)
AUG 16, 23 at 17:45 (60 min)
 
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A stand-up show about freedom, fascism, complacency, complicity, and milk. ***** List **** Guardian


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News and Reviews for this Show

August 27, 2017 British Comedy Guide
British Comedy Guide recommended show 2017
Queues are forming for this Free Festival show, so you'll need to get there early to get a seat... but it'll be worth your effort. Control touches on some serious topics, but Ahir Shah hasn't forgotten to put jokes in too. There's loads of them fact - big laughs to be had. Click Here

August 26, 2017  The Times
The millennial comic sums up a generation’s worries — about Brexit, dating, house prices, racism, the future — more pithily than anyone else

These are “interesting times for people like me”, says Ahir Shah in Control, the show that has earned him a nomination for this year’s lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Awards. This well-spoken comic from Tunbridge Wells — the atheist son of Hindu parents, he tells us, despite getting internet abuse for his Muslim ways — looks at the same sort of issues that plenty of other twentysomething comics tackle in their Edinburgh hours. Brexit. Racism. Singledom. Coupledom. Baby boomers versus milliennials.

Few other comics here, though, find such a rich vein of comedy from their generational frustration, or offer such a sharp rebuke to those of us who mistake the status quo for the way things have to be. It’s a bit rich getting knocked for spending £3 on a latte, he says, rehearsing a familiar putdown of young urban types such as him, by an older person who paid about that much for their house. He makes the case for globalisation as “a crisis in masculinity”. Want an example of that globalisation? Just listen to Shah drawling his words at us “like a f***ing butler!”

OK, so calling him “the voice of a generation” would put too much pressure on an act that is fiendishly clever and furious, if not quite as coherent as you sense it could become. Even so, as his chummy yet spiky tones cannily compare the end of his relationship to the end of Britain in the EU, he has a scope and a wit about him that is exciting to behold.

He will take on right-wing canards, but also the inflated promises of Jeremy Corbyn. The room goes a bit quiet at this point, and is duly berated for not liking it when he takes a detour to have a go at “your absolute boy”. As ever, it’s in the precise choice of words that an idea goes from a head-nod to a laugh.

So if some of his politics can be glib, if he now and then goes from snappy to brittle, the other side of that coin is his ability to nail a political nonsense in one well-chosen phrase. He is an important voice of his generation, and a funny one too. Click Here

August 26, 2017  The Scotsman
Ahir Shah is angry. Boy, is he ever. He’s angry about Brexit, angry about the new authoritarianism and he’s so enraged about Trump that he can’t even bring himself to utter the name – it’s simply “HIM!” spat out with righteous venom.

An hour of fury in lesser hands could prove wearing but Shah pitches his anger just right, he uses it as energy to fuel this frequently hilarious show and projects it all the way to the back of this standing room only gig. Even being shortlisted for the Edinburgh comedy awards hasn’t dulled Shah’s ire as one of “the metropolitan, liberal elite” (or as he puts it: “the three L’s – left, liberal and losing”).

There’s fierce intelligence here as Shah wrestles with the contradictions in his own character: a vegetarian who loves Nando’s and rails against globalisation (even though, as a middle-class young English guy of Indian descent he’s a perfect illustration of it). His old politics tutor voted to Leave the EU (“so there must be something to it”) but he struggles to engage with “the economic anxieties of people who shout ‘Paki!’ at me from passing cars”. This isn’t the shouty political polemic of Ben Elton and stops short of the Old Testament fury of Bill Hicks. Even Jeremy Corbyn takes a pasting (“hard to find an old picture of him without a terrorist,”) but, as Shah notes, if you’re going to listen to him go to town on the right for an hour you should be able to take a couple of minutes criticising the left.

It’s refreshing to encounter such informed, searingly angry political comedy these days and quite remarkable as part of the Free Fringe, but if you think for a moment you’re leaving this without paying, you’re wrong – you simply wouldn’t dare. Click Here

August 24, 2017  The Guardian
“I’m left, I’m liberal and I’m losing,” says Ahir Shah, but with this new show, Control, he’s not going down without a fight. It’s a piledriver hour about the rise of authoritarianism, and the eclipse of the liberal values many of us took for granted. It’s not uplifting: those looking for good cheer should look elsewhere. Shah finds plenty of laughs in the benighted state of the world, and his reaction to it – but alarm, not amusement, is the keynote. Shah is horrified, and angry, and he’s not soft-soaping that for easy laughs.

The opening stages are deceptive, as Shah warns against tarring Leave voters as racists. As his vegan-who-likes-Nando’s analogy proves, you can join bad teams for innocent reasons. But the tenor of the show contradicts this equable introduction. The deeper Shah drills into Trumpism and the nativist landscape, the more he finds racism at its root. “Take this country back” begs the question “from whom?” – and Shah thinks the answer’s obvious. Fashionable political ideas about “the common man” and the “victims of globalisation” are just code, he argues, for wanting a white monoculture.

At its best, this – and the wider analysis of our divided, dysfunctional times – comes across as coruscating comedy. Shah ratchets up the dismay to thermonuclear levels, at the degree to which the old keep shafting the young (cue a droll forecast of the next generational battleground), BBC balance, and Britain’s willed ignorance of its imperial history. He’s fiercely well-informed, anchors everything in his own experiences as a non-white Briton feeling the heat rise, and deploys an amusingly simplistic sour-milk motif to dramatise our compulsion to repeat the mistakes of the past.

No effort is made to plot a route out of our predicament. At points, I felt he was too cynical, writing off Corbyn’s Labour and derisive of the (legitimate?) concerns that fed Trump and Brexit. But then, a refusal to do what he’s told and “be understanding” is what’s driving this show – which is, more than anything, a call to arms, a warning against complacency. That may mean he sometimes sounds high-handed, and bitter. But as this combative hour of political comedy makes clear, Shah – and the rest of us – have more important things than that to worry about. Click Here

August 23, 2017  Beyond the Joke
Given the current state of the nation it is surprising there is not more political comedy on the Fringe.

But the new generation has an eloquent exponent with Ahir Shah, a protégé of Soho Theatre who is performing his debut at the Free Fringe.

Shah is an angry liberal, in fact by the climax of the show he is furious. He takes Brexit as his starting point and builds a literate, persuasive argument against extremist views, which builds into a tirade against allowing racism and intolerance to take hold in society.

Shah is a university-educated child of Indian parents who is tremendously clear about how he is a child of history. An atheist, he refused to vote Labour in the election because of its recurrent struggle with anti-Semitism, which shows a thoughtful and principled approach to politics. And like many intelligent young people he despairs of what passes for discussion on social media.

What lets his argument down, unfortunately, is the recurring image of spoiled milk. You shouldn’t go back to milk in the fridge once it has gone off – fair enough. Drinking milk which has gone off is like sleeping with someone you don’t really fancy for a second time – er – no, not so much.

His show builds to a crescendo of overwhelming righteous fury, with Shah justifiably raging against people who show an ignorance of their own history when they insist it is time to “get their country back”.

Shah is clever, confident and passionate about his politics. But he’s not as emotionally intelligent as he should be. Click Here

August 18, 2017  The Telegraph
Ventilation is often a problem at the Edinburgh Fringe, as comedy fans pile into airless cellars in hope of catching the next big thing. The staff of Cabaret Voltaire do their best, but no air-conditioning unit in the world could cope with the heat of Ahir Shah’s righteous ire.

In a free show at this subterranean cavern, the 26-year-old delivers a searing hour of political invective, punctuated with enough sharp jokes to prevent it from becoming a diatribe. Indeed, Control confirms Shah’s place as one of his generation’s most eloquent comic voices.

His last show, Machines, was grimly informed by his experience of being caught in Paris during the November 2015 terrorist attacks. This year, faced with a surge in white nationalist movements, he sees “Charlottesville the world over”, asking whether tolerance was a historical blip.

... Click Here

August 18, 2017  The List
Packed room for politically passionate show about what freedom really means

'Make yourselves comfortable', says Ahir Shah, with a sarcastic emphasis on the adjective, as he beckons another two dozen punters into an already packed Cabaret Voltaire. To call it a tight squeeze would be putting it mildly, but what Shah lacks in stern queue-management skills (and concern for health and safety regulations), he makes up for with a sharp and passionate show about today's political climate.

Control is an hour of quick-witted comedy that takes on a new layer of poignancy a few hours after Shah comes off stage, with the actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville. He questions what 'taking back control' really means. Is it fantasised nostalgia? Is it a smokescreen for racism? Is it in any way a proclamation of substance?

Shah's intellect never comes at the expense of humour. His routine about colonisation contains a great gag about cartographical oddities, he launches an hilariously exasperated attack on Liam Fox's attempts to airbrush centuries of British history, and, for the sake of balance, he offers a pop at 'your absolute boy' Jeremy Corbyn.

Control concludes that we've seen it all before. The rise of Trump and the like is akin to hearing a bad cover version of a song that was horrendous the last time round. This is a terrific hour of comedy. No wonder everybody's desperate to get a seat. Click Here

August 14, 2017  Young Perspective
Summary
A clever mix of impassioned argument and effortless wit, perfect for a politically engaged audience needing to vent.

In the historic, underground chambers of Cabaret Voltaire waits Ahir Shah: a man who could not be more different to his surroundings. A self-confessed member of the liberal metropolitan elite, Shah is bitter that he hasn’t gained the wealth and power that the Daily Mail promised. This sets the tone for an hour of witty, politically focused observations.

Shah uses evocative allegories and extended metaphors to swipe at both extremes of the political spectrum, deconstructing the oversimplifications of which all parties are guilty. It is to his merit that Shah manages to confront some of society’s most striking problems in a smart and powerful way, whilst still being able to elicit a laugh from the audience. The accessibility of his comedy (to an audience attuned to Western political developments, at least) aids this. Despite his confidence and ideological focus, Shah manages not to put himself on a pedestal. Much. He is able to poke fun at himself, and avoids pontificating.

The relentless speed with which Shah performs is impressive. His intensely passionate delivery keeps the audience buzzing from the first joke to the last. That being said, Shah’s energy can occasionally work against him, sometimes delivering his most satirical jokes so quickly that the audience struggle to process them before he moves onto new material.

At Fringe, it is common to hear variations on the predictable theme of political jokes about Scotland. However interestingly enough Shah eschews this path, having little material aimed at an audience from Edinburgh. This is a refreshing approach for a political comedian plus, as Shah himself points out, not necessarily a flaw amongst the theatre-going crowds in August.

Shah’s view of the world is cheerily pessimistic. Arguably the only way to respond to the aftermath of 2016. His reflections on society both entertain and lead to poignant moments. It is rare that a comedian can make an audience leave both upbeat, and angry with current affairs. Though the shining institutions of the world might be crashing down around us, we can be grateful that Ahir Shah is here to keep us smiling. Click Here

August 11, 2017  The Skinny
“I said that because I'm good at comedy.” Ahir Shah is a clever guy, and knows it. His very first joke contains a fallacy and a fake fact, which he points out almost immediately after receiving the expected laughs. In an era of internet bullshit, half-hearted political propaganda and fake news, this seems wildly appropriate. Control demonstrates a comedian in full, well, control, of his edgier political material while thankfully at the same time understanding that there’s no harm in taking the odd cheap and easy route for a laugh – it’s this delicate mix that is the key to keeping a sizeable audience engaged and he mostly pulls it off to great effect.

As a young British-Indian stand-up, the talk almost inevitably comes around to race and to Brexit, but from a much less conventional point of view – not many comics would attempt to genuinely examine pro-Brexit arguments onstage and expect a young liberal audience to stay onboard, but Shah is committed, focused, articulate, emotional and ready to bring up tough questions without necessarily having the answers. The mix occasionally veers too far in the direction of political monologue, but for those who require a call to action this is an engrossing hour from one of the best young political comedians out there today. Click Here

August 10, 2017  Fresh Air
Ahir Shah’s comedy is somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. He moves from impassioned rants to slow, difficult silence suddenly, and then will turn to you with a knowing look in his eye. This is what makes it all work; little acknowledgements of humility that bring Shah’s audience round to him. Shah could very much be an unlikeable figure, and he could have been, in another life, a more aggressive, adversarial comic. In this show, Shah uses these moments of vulnerability to help deliver a surprisingly powerful show on Brexit and the rise of the far-right in the UK.
Shah focuses his show around the role of history in the political life of the UK, and in his personal life. T the role of the British Empire in the story of his family takes a central position in the show, ridiculing the ignorance that many British people have about this part of their history. If you’d like to see one of the sharpest shows on today’s political tides, Ahir Shah is a smart choice. Click Here

August 9, 2017  Edinburgh Festivals Magazine
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. Click Here

August 8, 2017  Fest
With the urgency of someone who's had their world view shattered and is desperately casting about for answers, Ahir Shah comes out hard and fast with a great opening line about his name and a winning alignment of his relationship status to that of the UK's with the EU. The fact that neither routine is wholly based on hard fact is no impediment to this sharp, impassioned and skilled gag writer, who appreciates that the value of an effective simile lies not in its accuracy but its power to lodge in the memory and to move, even if that's out of a trading bloc with our nearest neighbours.

While still reeling from Brexit and the accompanying tolerance of racism he perceives marshalling in its wake, Shah explores the cases of intelligent, decent people he knows who voted Leave. And as a heart-on-sleeve left-winger, takes a swipe at the inexplicable anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party.

But these are momentary diversions from the main business in hand, which is his relentless pillorying of the Right's yearning for a return to some nostalgic fantasy age, exemplified by trade secretary Liam Fox's insistence that the UK is one of the few countries in the EU with nothing to be ashamed of, conveniently whitewashing the ravages of Empire. History would seem to support Shah's insistence on learning from our mistakes lest we be doomed to repeat them. And he makes his case comprehensively and consistently hilariously, even if his impact beyond the politically like-minded is open to question. Click Here

August 6, 2017  Chortle
3.5 stars

With a neat joke at the start, fiery political comedian Ahir Shah sums up his shtick: to confidently impart a lot of information, which you might only later realise is wrong. Although in truth, all seems pretty spot-on.

It’s a typically ambitious hour from the lefty firebrand, starting with the EU referendum vote which brought out a nasty strand of nationalism and put an arrow – proper English arrow, Agincourt-style – though his previously solid belief that the world was getting more progressive. But in reality, outside his metropolitan liberal bubble, it’s getting less tolerant, and more racist.

He’s keen not to brand every Leave voter the same way – he has a smart, knowledgeably non-racist friend who wanted Out – and avoids too many of the familiar complaints of remain-supporting comedians. After all, he recognises that polarising society is what got us into this pickle in the first place. For balance, he even has a pop at Jeremy Corbyn’s historic love of terrorists and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, but it’s only a brief distraction from the job in hand.

... Click Here

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