Ahir Shah, Dress review: Pandemic jokes that fall down when it comes to politics

Shah explores the past 18 months of the pandemic in his new live show

Isobel Lewis
Thursday 04 November 2021 14:05
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<p>Shah captures the contradictory emotions of the past year and a half, which has been both bizarre and mundane</p>

Shah captures the contradictory emotions of the past year and a half, which has been both bizarre and mundane

How do you joke about the pandemic? Since comedy venues shut in March 2020, comedians have been trying to figure out an answer to this question. The industry would return, they hoped, but would it be to a nation so traumatised, they never wanted to hear the words “Covid” or “panic-buying” again? Or would this virus that’s killed 5 million people around the world become just another one of those things we joke about, like Brexit or queueing?

Tackling the topic in his new show Dress, currently running at the Soho Theatre, is Ahir Shah. Over an hour, the double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee looks back at the past 18 months of his life, a time referred to as the “dress rehearsal for the apocalypse”. There’s an acceptance in both Shah’s material and his performance that this is not going to be a particularly “shocking return to stand-up”. After all, it’s the job of the comedian to share their specific observations about interesting life experiences, but as the comic points out, a) nothing has happened, and b) it’s happened to all of us.

Shah captures the contradictory emotions of the past year and a half, which has been both bizarre and mundane. We hear about the realities of living alone – “no one interferes, but equally, no one checks” – that led to him struggling with his mental health and getting scurvy (seriously), his desire to be a soup-making house husband, the worries that hugging his dad for the first time in months may end up killing him. The last is a genuinely touching story, cleverly undercut by Shah’s aside that if he had killed him, it would at least have been pretty funny.

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