Comedy review: Ahir Shah: Dots, Monkey Barrel, Edinburgh

Recognising comedians’ success in Edinburgh as a contest to best exploit one’s declining mental health, Ahir Shah returns with yet another superbly assured breakdown of the state of the world and his own, ever-present insecurities.
Ahir Shah: Dots, Monkey Barrel Comedy (Venue 515)Ahir Shah: Dots, Monkey Barrel Comedy (Venue 515)
Ahir Shah: Dots, Monkey Barrel Comedy (Venue 515)

Ahir Shah: Dots, Monkey Barrel, Edinburgh * * * *

Though he justifiably detests the term “adulting”, preferring a more florid and artistic-sounding international variation, he’s cast adrift without a relationship, and lately, without the reassuring crutch of cigarettes as well. Life was a simpler focus of survival for his Indian immigrant parents.

And Shah can’t help but look upon his father’s religious, political and romantic convictions with despairing jealousy.

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Upsettingly too, for someone who barely knows his own thoughts, or perhaps is too afflicted by them, his minor fame as a performer and representation of all Asians causes him considerable unease, though he easily bats away a journalist’s attempts to put him on the spot concerning his sometimes non-PC language. Invariably the better debater in an argument, the constant effort nevertheless wears him down. And he suggests society might benefit from sitting out the occasional contretemps. Astute and sardonically sharp on the divide-and-conquer, homogenise-and-dismiss logic of white people’s comprehension of most of the planet’s inhabitants, Shah still foregrounds his own insular self-obsession.

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Pitting science against romantic spirituality, he finds it wanting. And his parents’ love story runs beneath his own, casting it into stark relief, with Shah seldom missing an opportunity for a laugh at his own expense or his privileged generation. Tremendously thoughtful, woundedly candid and self-laceratingly funny, Dots maintains his exceptionally high standard of recent Fringe offerings.

Until 25 August