Religious perspectives on universal issues
This article is from 2011.
This year Imran Yusuf seeks to Bring the Thunder, playing on the fact that one of the Western media’s biggest bogeymen is Muslims seeking to effect change through conflict. In a shiny suit and oozing charisma, he nudges up against political and religious material, working it into a narrative about his failures with women and eventual redemption through stand-up comedy.
Facing an Edinburgh audience (not always known for its diversity), he tackles head-on the rules about who is allowed to laugh at what. Exaggerated accents are inserted for comic effect then with audience being told they are ‘racists’ for laughing along with the joke. It’s enough to bring the issue to the table but Yusuf is too preoccupied in espousing a hand-holding multiculturalism to risk actually making anyone uncomfortable. Similarly, a 9/11 one-liner is worked in such a way that it would be impossible to take offence.
Although the heavy stuff can feel a little like an ‘Introduction to Abrahamic Religions and their Conflicts’, his confidence in providing background information to set-ups as opposed to simply relying on a stream of quick punchlines (and laughs) is evidence of an assured performer. Yusuf’s second theme, his previous depression and lack of luck with the ladies, tells us this wasn’t always the case. In a weaker section of the show he falls back on the universal stereotype of the hapless romantic man.
While he works towards showing how racial and religious harmony can be achieved on a small scale, and expanding this optimistically to a larger one, his throwaway sexist remarks are incongruous with the time he spends building a picture of the endearing face of Islam, with him – a non-threatening, single, computer nerd – as ambassador. Working with difficult material that necessitates treading a thin line, Yusuf mostly plays it safe, sacrificing the ‘thunder’ but not laughs.
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