Tez Ilyas, Edinburgh Fringe review: a witty exploration of what it means to be a British Muslim

The stand-up attempts to convert his audience to Islam in his tongue-in-cheek debut show

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The Independent Culture

By his own admission, Tez Ilyas looks more like an over-enthusiastic candidate on The Apprentice than a stand-up comedian. The powder-blue suit and loud tie are partly to blame but they are in keeping with his slick show, which takes the form of a TED Talk, or “Tez Talk”.

The subject of Tez’s talk is his life as a Muslim in Britain. He made an iPlayer short about Ramadan for the BBC’s Muslim Comedy strand earlier this summer and his debut hour expands on the theme, with a cheeky twist.

It turns out that we the audience are all on a conversion to Islam course and Ilyas is our tutor. Before we graduate, we must learn the 10 commandments of being a British Muslim – Keep it Halal, Reclaim the Beard, Don’t Get a Hook, Do Jihad etc.

If it all sounds a bit too educational to be funny, Ilyas, a twinkly Lancastrian, walks the tightrope in lively, occasionally Gangnam, style. His wide-ranging take on his faith zips from his disbelief at headlines uncovering the “Halal Secret of Pizza Express” to his experiences on a stag do in Benidorm, “where the pubs all have names like ‘I’m Not a Racist But…’” to his determination to coin OMA! as the Islamic equivalent to OMG!

In between jokes, Ilyas explains concepts like jihad and Ramadan with unpatronising good humour, explores “British values” and debunks Islamophobic abuse, including the daftest heckle he has ever received: “Bacon!” It is sharp, timely satire, delivered with a cheekily winning smile.

A concluding speech, which compares being a Muslim in Britain to “being a square peg in a round hole” provides a moving a pause for breath before Ilyas brings proceedings to a close with an inclusive feelgood bang.

Ilyas is not quite a natural performer yet and there is some stiffness to his routines, but this carefully written show manages the tricky feat of delivering an important message with warmth, wit and plenty of laughs. A comic voice to listen out for in future.

Pleasance Courtyard, to 30 August (0131 556 6550; www.edfringe.com)