Tez Ilyas shows throughout this hour that he is an assured stand-up with serious political messages to get across about intolerance. Having recently moved back to Blackburn, Ilyas recounts his experiences of having reconnected with his family there and the casual racism that he says typifies the North, both key strands in the narrative running throughout the show. Seeing modern Britain through the eyes of his young niece and nephew, he expresses genuine worry about the political and social developments through witty self-deprecating humour.
A good sign that he is determined to come out fighting against the bigots at large.
The actual jokes that he deploys probably aren’t the punchiest that you will witness this Fringe, but they are good enough to get laughs throughout. Some develop and some don’t. The section explaining why his time dating a posh white girl in the London “liberal metropolitan bubble” was unsustainable. Citing the ridiculous house party food of artisan bread and balsamic vinegar, would be funny if he did not overplay his ignorance in these situations. As it is delivered, the rather weak punchline consists in Ilyas not knowing the name for olives or different cheeses. It’s not quite enough.
By contrast, his lines on how Muslims are the new anti-establishment punks, and how his career is reliant on moderate levels of racism, are really strong. An inversion of expectations and an egoistic comedian’s brag all in one. This also leads him into genuinely thought-provoking sections on the Islamophobia evident in media reactions to terrorist attacks, and the lines that he has borrowed from his young nephew about this will both make you laugh and melt your heart.
The ending is clever, offering a parody both of other comedians’ sets and the hour that we have just witnessed, all whilst satirising the intolerance that is creeping into our society. It is perhaps just slightly too triumphant and hard-hitting in tone, as you are left questioning whether Ilyas had done enough groundwork in the rest of the show to justify this, but it is a good sign that he is determined to come out fighting against the bigots at large.