Shappi Khorsandi: Dirty Looks and Hopscotch

Comedians are a needy bunch. In their insatiable quest to generate more laughs, attract bigger crowds and cause more controversy, they will go to extreme lengths to grab our attention, most of which involve meddling with the audience. In fairness, it’s not always the comedian who’s culpable when the audience gets dragged into proceedings: sometimes they bring it upon themselves. Hecklers, wise-guys and drunken fools must all be negotiated with consummate skill or, when that fails, with bluster and profanity.

Shappi Khorsandi didn’t set out to engage with the audience – given the choice she’d rather dispense her scripted stand-up and then bid us a cheery farewell – but when an ailing gentleman left his seat she was compelled to pass comment. Anything less would be a dereliction of her duties as a self-respecting comic. Unfortunately, Khorsandi doesn’t do improv very well. She wasn’t cringeworthy or offensive; she’s just not very good at improvising, in the same way that a substandard reviewer might struggle to improvise a suitable metaphor with which to finish this sentence, causing it to end on a whimper. It’s a missed opportunity, though Khorsandi was presented with further opportunities to improvise as the evening developed. First though, there’s a show to deliver.

Shappi Khorsandi is a feisty one. What the Iranian-born comedian may lack in stature, she makes up for in character. Tales of her ill-fated relationship with a minor league rockstar are interwoven with observations about family, race and religion. At times, Khorsandi’s jokes were too immature for the audience – or were the audience too mature for Khorsandi? Taken aback by the nonplussed looks, the comedian felt compelled to elucidate. It should be noted that if you’re unfamiliar with such rudimentary terms as MILFs and scat, you’re probably not ready for adult comedy.

Like most stand-ups, Khorsandi treats us to a mix of true anecdotes and ‘true’ anecdotes. Where the truth begins and the ‘truth’ ends is hard to tell, though for the purposes of the show, it’s immaterial – all that matters is that it’s highly entertaining. By the end of the hour, we’ve gained a small insight into the comedian’s world, unless all of her true stories were ‘true’ stories, in which case we’re none the wiser but all the merrier.

The hour is wrapped up with some last-minute improv, this time regarding Khorsandi’s new haircut, which she’s regretting. It’s not as regrettable as her spontaneous comedy, however, which one again fails to shine. Still, it seems churlish to complain, as for the previous 55 minutes, Shappi Khorsandi has been a sharp-witted menace. She should stick to the script more often.

The Blurb

As a girl, Shappi dreamed impossibly romantic dreams. She still does. But a love affair with a rock star? What on earth was she doing, thinking, in heaven's name wearing? 'Absolute success' (Evening Standard).