The last time I saw Shappi Khorsandi was in the studio of Soho Theatre, but her accession to playing the main theatre space is one of the smaller boons to her career in recent years. The Anglo-Iranian comic has enjoyed coverage on TV shows ranging from Friday Night with Jonathan Ross to Question Time and seen her book A Beginner's Guide to Acting English win her new fans away from the comedy scene. Her act itself, however, makes a sporadic case for its own betterment.
Khorsandi's biggest achievement tonight is that she is not completely thrown by an audience member called Ruth, a property manager, who vocalises her exception to the mention of female circumcision in an early routine. Rather than this being the butt of a joke as erroneously assumed, the reference is an example of the many occasions where the female comic sends up her own middle-class background. In this case, she takes the rise out of her exuberant student idealism about Africa, an enthusiasm born of taking a course where, she says, she studied African plays with titles such as I Will Marry When I Want, a title she invests with her most PC indigenous accent.
Though Khorsandi has to invest a lot of time in winning the audience member round, the effort is testimony to her powers of being ingratiating without being nauseating, a knack that helped her survive the male-dominated comedy circuit in the earlier part of her career and one echoed by other female stand-ups like Lucy Porter. As with Porter, she treads a fine line between sweetness and coyness though for the most part they both have a bevy of one-liners that cut through too much froth.
Khorsandi's hit rate is best during a section dedicated to her ex-husband. "There were three people in that relationship, me, him and his iPhone," she says before she shows us how he confused her for an iPhone in bed. "He's a comedian as well," she explains, adding cheekily, "but you won't have heard of him."
To 8 May (020 7478 0100; Sohotheatre.com)Reuse content