Ahir Shah: Machines
An emotional dissection about the paths we choose and those who stand in our way
This article is from 2016.
Ahir Shah has been working steadily towards producing an hour of stand-up as powerful as Machines for a number of years now. His brand of unapologetic liberal-left cage-rattling has always been energising for its vaulting ambition and wrestling with ideas (and sizzling quality of the jokes, of course). But this time around an emotional heft has been loaded on; being caught up in the carnage and chaos of Paris last November has given him a real perspective on the world affairs he has long discussed in his work.
Shah's overall thesis is that we all stand at a crucial moment in our historical and social development. There are wonderful possibilities ahead in the future, but too many reactionary groups (Islamic State, the Brexit lot, those voting for America's 'orange Hitler', and even some previously peaceful groups who have suddenly gone a bit wrong) want to drag us back to archaic and pessimistic pasts.
He still has personal issues to contend with, worrying that he might drink a little too much from time to time, and concerned about the inevitable contradictions in holding his political views against a fondness for being treated with fawning respect in Waitrose. Feeling that he (like everyone else) might just be winging it at all times, it's a belief in hope that manages to keep driving him on.
Shah has always had a burning passion at his fingertips and the gags to back up his fire, but everything appears to have crystallised wonderfully in Machines. The dishing out of awards can become something of a wild-eyed obsession for critics and comics alike in August. Whether he is bestowed with any shiny garlands before this month is out will actually matter not one jot, for Ahir Shah has now got himself on a path to somewhere far greater.
Laughing Horse at Cabaret Voltaire, until 28 Aug, 1.30pm, free.