Shappi Khorsandi: The Distracted Activist
Activists, with their banners, placards and poor personal hygiene are usually the sort of people I try to avoid. There is an ever present suspicion that many of the bearded lot, with their acoustic guitars, bongos and New Statesman newspapers, tend to be there more for the banter and ganja than for world revolution. Still, after listening to Shappi Khorsandi, I can see the appeal of some Trotskite repartee – despite the often muddled and erratic delivery.
With an admirable degree of self awareness and mockery at her status as ‘An Iranian’ Khorsandi gaily walks into the minefield of race and religion. This is, she notes, a subject she has unashamedly drawn on for its entire comic worth – and as she demonstrates, it has come to be expected of her. Walking into Radio 4 and attempting to promote her idea for a play about teenage poetry, for example, resulted in the BBC ‘mishearing’ and assuming she – being ‘Khorsandi of Iran’ – must want to do a show about female oppression in Islam or racial integration.
Much of her razor edged cultural perception seemed slightly lost on the audience however. Her joy at witnessing the spectacle of a gang of Asians, Whites and Blacks in a ‘post-modern rainbow coalition of thuggery’ wreaking havoc, fell on deaf ears.
Yet Shappi’s deep self-awareness, dissecting of her own past and Britain’s attitude to race should be praised for going well beyond the tired clichés of so much humour. How well these intelligent observations translate into the laugh-a-second maelstrom of stand-up is another matter however. While apparently expected of her, Khorsandi needs to broaden the scope of her humour to something beyond her own novelty.
While the show is not as sharp in comic delivery as it is in cultural observation, Khorsandi is nonetheless an intellectually attractive – although perhaps not revolutionary – comedian.
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