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Imran Yusuf - Bring the Thunder
Published on Friday, 19 August 2011
3

3 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Comedy
3-29 Aug, 7:00pm-8:00pm
Reviewed by Hannah Van Den Bergh

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

After his success of last year, receiving a Comedy Awards newcomer nomination, Imran Yusuf advances into the big league.  This sell-out performance, embracing intelligent laughs, maps the past of a comedy starlet who no doubt has a sparkling future ahead of him – with refined material, and stronger punchlines.

In his new show at the Pleasance Courtyard, Yusuf explores his heritage – a juxtaposition of his early childhood spent in Africa, his upbringing in Hackney and his pilgrimage to Mecca.  This personable and touching performance resonates with a sensitive message; Yusuf tells us to take our negative traits and spin them into something positive.

That's a questionable departure from the typical comedy model, but Yusuf’s positive ethos is charming. You can’t help but fall for the energetic, eloquent routine, embracing his religious exploits – editing the lines of school hymns in his Church of England comprehensive to embrace his Islamic faith and recognising the difference between an eastern and western Muslim on his trip to the Holy Land, not being helped by his (once) Indian genes.

Welcoming of his gawky side, Yusuf digresses to stories of a relationship with a Swedish girl, a relatively touching display that oddly doesn’t evoke many laughs.  Other parts of Yusuf’s work also fell short: I felt his material was strong enough to stand alone, without reliance on boob gags. Similarly, the tiresome repetitions of his “gangster” slew added nothing to the performance, attempting cheap laughs he did not need.

But, ending with a passage from the Qur’an, the dexterity of Yusuf’s performance shows how he continues to turn racially sensitive material into comedy sensation.

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