Close-up: Ahir Shah

School's out for the 17-year-old – just in time for a spot of stand-up at Edinburgh
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"Ladies and gentlemen," says Ahir Shah, stepping on stage. "I know some of you will be thinking, 'A-ha, I was wondering what he'd got up to since The Jungle Book...' Although he is the celebrity I most resemble, I AM NOT MOWGLI." It's a handy opener. Aged 17, Shah will be one of the younger stand-ups at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. "It would be weird if I got up and didn't comment on my age," he explains. "I'm young, I'm brown – once that's taken care of I can get into politics."

Shah's comedy heroes are Dylan Moran, Lenny Bruce, Doug Stanhope and (reverent voice) "the Hicks". If his taste is older than his years, so is his material. He tried a riff about what atheists say when they climax – "Charles Darwin!" – but learnt audiences wouldn't accept it from someone his age. "They know that for two- thirds of my life I've thought girls were icky."

Shah has the instinct ("He's got comedy DNA," says fellow comedian Arnold Brown) and the dedication: at 15, he started classes at Keith Palmer's comedy school in Camden, taking the train from his home in Wembley. He was the youngest there "by about 10 years". He studies YouTube comedy clips ("a revelation") and the Live at the Apollo back catalogue.

The other kind of education – A-levels at his local comprehensive – provide yet more material. "I'm studying politics, history, music and further maths. That's politics, music and further maths; history, of course, repeats itself."

Going to Edinburgh, he says, is a "pilgrimage", and he hopes to learn a lot. He even wants to be heckled. Can anything scare this prodigy? "Doing a gig at my school – now that would be terrifying."

For information on Shah's Edinburgh Fringe show, which runs from 3-25 August , visit