Ahir Shah's Duffer at Melbourne International Comedy Festival

I attended the Melbourne International Comedy Festival a few weeks ago and had to write a review for my journalism class. I thought I'd share it because I really enjoyed the performance and my teacher responded well to my writing. 

The two-time Edinburgh Comedy nominee - Ahir Shah invites his audience in for an hour-long journey of simultaneous heartbreak and humour in the form of his performance “Duffer”, which is Hindi for an incompetent person, the nickname his dadi, paternal grandmother, gave him as a kid, and around who’s deportation the stage revolves.

Duffer tackles weighted topics ranging from race and identity, immigration and politics to life and death, compiling them strategically and being unapologetically vulnerable, to build a more connective and responsive audience. Although the concept of throwing in some dark humour is quite common in comedic displays, Shah’s brutal take on political and existential matters, leaves audiences on the edge of their seats, baffled and in dismay, unsure of how to react to such private anecdotes, right before he throws in one of his recurring jokes about Bohemian Rhapsody, that surprising works each time, lightening the mood. 

“Shah’s ability to let laughter and discomfort sit side- by- side through a jam- packed hour where he interrogates colonialism, the effects of technology and mental illness is unparalleled - Duffer was often heavy, but meticulously structured and exceedingly clever.” Says writer and critic, Sonia Nair, with which I’d have to completely agree. It isn’t unusual to be confronted by scandalous subjects by comedians, but Shah supplies a unique element of personality and a sense of subjective familiarity that is incomparable.  

From the very beginning, Shah’s fierce intelligent and undeniably inquisitivity has no comparison, his ability to unfold such heavy material in a jam packed 60 minutes, is admirable to say the least; but he isn’t seeking answers. Rather, he invites his audience in to feel the burden and discomfort of heated topics and mixes in an ingredient of humour and wit, equipping the popular comedic skill of calling back to earlier jokes and surrendering to cultural stereotypes, to lighten moments of tragedy and free viewers of the breath they’ve been holding in, which works exceptionally well.  
Although at times, not all might be able to relate or understand the humour that seems to be targeted at the Indian audience, or those familiar with it, Shah then makes sure to put on a little act, mimicking how a certain scenario would play out in those situations, adding variety and layers to the performance.

For anyone seeking to experience an unmatched sense of cynical humour as well as be cognitively challenged, Ahir Shah’s show is one not to be missed. The death and existential talk is there to make you feel uneasy, but it provides a sense of much needed catharsis, leaving the audiences feeling a lot less lonely and encouraged to discuss topics that we are often too ashamed to.

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