But his set might be characterised as exasperated “common sense”. His signature routine about the frustrations of buying a train ticket online is an object lesson in building a momentum of strong, successive gags from commonplace subject matter. Moreover, when sharing his sexual misadventures and the perils of sunbathing nude, he very much casts himself as the fall guy, eliciting substantial laughs.
Friday Night Comedy, Glee Club, Glasgow ***
Bilal Zafar – Lovebots, Stand, Edinburgh ***
Headlining, Canadian émigré Sean Collins is so long in the tooth that he can settle into a chair and it not feel like an affectation. Happy to offer up anecdotes as they occur to him and marvel at the breasts of a woman in the front row, his chief concern is being a 52-year-old man with two young children.
Sardonic, he has little time for the touch-feely parenting suggested to him by others and bemoans the slow development of his three-year-old. An old-fashioned storyteller with appealing rough edges, he’s good value but somewhat eclipsed by Kiri Pritchard-McLean.
Unlike Collins, who baldly states his lack of political correctness and neglects to mention his previous work with vulnerable children, she offers you more of a sense of where she’s coming from – revealing how her volunteering has informed her dark humour, without approaching worthiness and slapping down a former audience member who questioned her “unladylike” swearing.
Although her two main tales, about a DIY waxing and mortifying sex, are lacerating in their self-debasement, she’s bracingly upfront about her strengths and sexual appetites, an appealing mix of confidence and vulnerability.
Preceding her in a 10-minute spot, Lubna Kerr has the odd decent line but can’t come close to making a similar connection with the crowd.
Bilal Zafar has a similar problem. He’s an amiable storyteller but underpowered, meandering into this afternoon show with his explanation of some recent cosmetic surgery that he treats like it’s an elephant in the room, when it’s debatable if anyone noticed.
Regardless, Lovebots is a sequel of sorts to his enjoyable debut hour, with both shows striving to twist the online Islamophobia he has received into cuddly comedy.
With a friend’s programming skills and faux-naif optimism about changing the world, if only in a minor way, Zafar created a series of bots (automatic responses on Twitter) to popular right-wing hashtags and expressions of hate, his charges superficially modelled on classic British sitcom characters and spouting compassion. Although the often weird responses of his artificial intelligence is amusing and there’s satisfaction in playing whack-a-mole with bigots, feeding more fakery into the internet doesn’t seem that laudable an aim. The automation of the programming also feeds into the show, which, having established the premise, Zafar relays as if on autopilot.
And while he identifies the hurt behind some of the trolls’ anger, he simply strings them along rather than offers the sort of help suggested by his hero Sarah Silverman’s example. Belatedly applying the benefits of his online experiment to the real world makes for an endearing coda, but it still feels a little forced. - Jay Richardson