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Paul Sinha: 'Extreme Anti-White Vitriol'
Published on Sunday, 22 August 2010

5 stars

The Stand Comedy Club (venue website)
4-29 Aug (not 16), times vary)
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

What you hope for, at an event like the Edinburgh Festival, is to walk out of a show feeing that you have seen something truly exceptional.  And at this show, that's just what happened.  This was my big festival wow.  Paul Sinha's show Extreme Anti-White Vitriol was, I promise, the best, cleverest, funniest, most thought-provoking piece of stand-up comedy I have ever seen.

I hadn't seen Paul Sinha perform stand up for years, but I remembered him as full of funny charm.  I liked his smarmy, English-gent-taking-tea posters, with the super-serify font offering the show's double-take-inducing title: Extreme Anti-White Vitriol.  But I didn't know that in the years since I'd last seen him, Paul Sinha had got very, very good indeed.

This was an utterly amazing piece of stand up.  It is technically exquisite.  Before the show I was talking to a leafleter in the Pleasance Courtyard (yeah, I know, how Edinburgh am I?) who told me he'd never seen anything quite like it in terms of mechanical comedy brilliance.  He was right: in a world where every second Edinburgh stand-up show features a comic artlessly slamming their best 3 twenty minute routines together, this is a masterclass in how to make a strong coherent story in stand up.  You couldn't see the joins; Sinha nests stories within stories and dances from one subject to another, without ever showing how his thoughts are stuck together.

It is also hugely relevant.  Sinha is Asian and an out gay man.  He navigates these two identities in his performance, not to make something self-indulgent - although he does talk about his lack of a boyfriend (which must be a comic conceit, surely, this guy cannot be on the shelf!), but to show us his world and share it with ours.

Furthermore, it's moving and it's generous, but it's not getting top marks just for that. It is also funny.  It is properly five-star funny, with tricky and complex subjects sugared with lots and lots of jokes.  Sinha makes clever connections between the celebrities who apologised for Roman Polanski and the people who sympathised with Raoul Moat on Facebook.  He understands that - like Facebook - when it comes to race, identity and nationality, it's complicated.

Instead of offering a simple uplifting conclusion Sinha confronts his own prejudices when an incident at London Bridge station takes an unexpected turn, because people are complicated too.  Is the UK more or less racist than twenty years ago?  There's no easy answer.  But Sinha does have some simple, perfect advice for us all.

Sinha is a football fan. I'm not, but I loved this show so much I'm going to attempt a footie analogy just for him.  Sinha is a comic at the top of his game; this exceptional performance ought to be enough to have him promoted into the premier league of British stand up.  (And get him a boyfriend.)

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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