“I’m lefty, liberal and losing,” announces Ahir Shah. “That’s A for Alpha, H for Hero, I for India and R for Romeo.” OK, so he might have made up the H, but in a world where fake facts are endemic everything else Shah has to say in this hour-long rebuke against complacency is spot on. Although Shah claims to be losing the argument, I’ve not heard anyone delineate what divides us with such coruscating wit before.
Shah is a very clever man. And he makes no attempt to hide the fact, taking a rare delight in deconstructing political fallacies while questioning the claim that populism and anti-globalisation is a victory for the common man that has nothing to do with plain old-fashioned racism.
Generations, families and friends may have been divided by Brexit, claims Shah, but one group held fast. “You never heard a racist saying, “Well I hate P…s as much as the next guy… but we really need to think through the long-term economic consequences.” Shah’s background as a British Asian informs his comedy throughout. “My ancestors have been globalized the fuck out of for generations and now I sound like a butler! ‘Take our country back!’From whom?” he asks.
Shah’s parents own their house “because they’re from the past” – and indeed much of the blame for where we find ourselves is laid at the door of baby boomers hankering after a fetishised nostalgia for the old days. “Have you ever been to the Isle of Wight? he asks. “It does exactly what it says on the tin.”
Not that Shah reserves his invective for those on the right. In fact, he admits to being unable to vote for his former party, Labour, because of percieved anti-Semitism before making an unusually frank joke about Jezza’s “intimate” relationship with terrorists.
Shah’s grasp of history is sadly not matched by any vision of how we can right the ship. At times Control is bleakly dystopian with no real suggestion of how we wrest it back. But the very fact so many people have turned out on a wet weekday evening to hear such politically rigorous disapprobation is surely a step in the right direction. Or perhaps just a sign that what we are most in need of in worrying times is a damn big belly laugh delivered by the most eloquent comedian I’ve seen this year.
Ahir Shar is currently touring nationwide. See www.ahirshah.com for dates