Review: Tez Talks About Muslims' Views On Tinder And Star Wars

Tez Ilyas: Tez Talks, Soho Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Ben Venables Last edited 22 months ago
Review: Tez Talks About Muslims' Views On Tinder And Star Wars Tez Ilyas: Tez Talks, Soho Theatre 3
Credit: Steve Ullathorne

Tez Talks is a show revolving around the peculiar difficulty of a country fostering prejudice towards those it tells to integrate.

Delivering this standup hour in the guise of a talk, where the 'infidel' audience are here to learn the 'Tez' Commandments and convert to Islam, is comedian Tez Ilyas. His Lancashire accent, dapper appearance and pedantry for the correct capitalisation in racist graffiti all offer a charming subtext: this British Asian man of Muslim faith understands his home country better than anyone who can't see that testing for 'British values', or writing these values down, is something of a contradiction.

He has ambition, charisma and, crucially for this kind of well-informed standup, a point of view. It's little wonder then, that there are hardly any tickets left for this run.

There's plenty of comedic variation in this show. For instance, he talks about the disproportionate attention given by the media to certain 'folk devils', and spotting the curiosity that these figures enjoy, rather than endure, their time in the spotlight. After all, they have professional publicity shots taken. Then, there's lots of fun too, whether it's a Muslim interpretation of Star Wars or the occasional charm of a groan-inducing pun. What's more, he can add bite to the experience of everyday prejudice when reporting the exact number of people whom have blocked him on Tinder at the point they read of his Muslim faith.

It's odd though that he mentions this show wasn't nominated for a Best Newcomer award in Edinburgh. To be clear, it's said with humility and lightheartedness, and not with some axe-to-grind or sense of entitlement. But, it's interesting he brings it up. Tez Talks is certainly a show which could have received that sort of recognition. The apparent omission was probably down to it simply being a strong year for newcomers overall.

But it's where Tez Talks is most like an 'Edinburgh show' which actually weakens it. In other words, the structure of the show is a little too visible at times, with each Tez Commandment inadvertently seeming to grow repetitive, even when there is plenty of the aforementioned variation in the material. Although oddly, when the lights dim and he delivers a serious segment — a tactic in Edinburgh so well-known the parodies are tired — it actually works here. The reason being that unlike many comedians that just throw in some phoney sincerity into an otherwise normal hour of stand-up to tug on the award judges' heartstrings, Ilyas actually means what he says.

There can be very little doubt that seamlessly enveloping his comedy and the interesting things he has to say into a sound structure will come in a future show, and in Tez Talks there is every indication he won't always be overlooked by those offering award recognition. (Not that he should worry or care about impressing these types).

We very much look forward to seeing Tez Ilyas again, he's a very promising comedian indeed.

Tez Ilyas: Tez Talks is on at Soho Theatre, 9.15pm, until Sat 6 Feb, Tickets £12.50/£10. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 04 February 2016