This was another show that we’d booked so long ago that it changed its name in the meantime. Two years elapsed between the initial booking and the actual event! And what was originally Populist became Vicked – although the title is only a serving suggestion of what the show contains – which is Another Evening in the Company of Tez Ilyas Doing his Thing. And a very funny Thing it is.
Tez Ilyas is one of the few performers that I feel comfortable referring to by their first name. Not Mr Ilyas, nor Mr I (which is how I normally refer to comics when I’ve already mentioned their name a few times), but Tez. And that’s because he forms such a sincere connection with his audience that you really feel like you and he are old mates. It’s partly the courtesy that he extends by always coming out on to the stage first for a little chat with us all before introducing his support act; it’s partly the fact that stays behind after the show for a photo and a chat; it’s partly that his delivery is so fluent and genuine that everything he says you believe is true. He refers to us as his Tezbians, which also grants us some familiarity rights. Within a few seconds of coming on stage, he’s brought up two lads from the front row who are from different groups but for all the world look like they’re brothers (and they really did). In that simple act, he brought us all together, united in one purpose, to make a judgment call on these two lads – and we remain united throughout the rest of the show. The audience becomes a very comfortable, safe place, and you just know you’re in for a good time.
And yes, we did indeed have an excellent support act in the capable hands (and plectrum) of comedy-musician Kate Lucas, whom we saw at a Screaming Blue Murder a few years ago. She’s like a coiled serpent with her easy, gentle appearance, delicately beautiful voice, and viperous lyrics to her brilliant songs. She sings us songs of acerbity and Schadenfreude, of revenge and malice, and the audience loves her for it. She even gets us to join in a singalong of dubious taste. It’s all very inventive and very funny, and it was great to see her again.
After the interval, Tez returned to the stage and gave us a good hour-and-three-quarters of top quality material, expertly delivered. This was the fourth time we’ve seen him live – the last time was at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017 – and he’s truly evolved as a stand-up of immense confidence, linguistic skill and an enviable ability to trade good-hearted banter with anyone and everyone. One minute he hits just the perfect note of self-deprecation, the next he’s on an outrageous attack against someone else and it’s such a cunning blend of humour that you never know what’s coming next. I loved his segment when he played NHS Top Trumps – identifying all the audience members who work for the NHS (there were five) and working out which one most deserved the Thursday Night Minute of Applause. Not only does this allow him to gently tease the audience, and himself, it also opens up the field of political satire, at which Tez excels.
And then, of course, there’s the whole subject of racism, which constantly crops up in his material somehow or another, and he plays it perfectly, using humour not only to show its ridiculousness and cruelty, but also how easy it can be to fall foul of it oneself. He does a wonderful deconstruction of the terms BAME and POC – no matter how politically correct those terms may be, they’re pretty awful. He jests of cultural appropriation when any other ethnic group is involved in terrorism; and he admits to being stumped when it comes to dealing with a cis straight white male who’s neither fat nor ginger. He has a brilliant way of turning prejudice on its head, that not only reveals so much about the human condition but also is just so bloody funny.
There are just a few more dates remaining on this tour – if you’re in any doubt about whether to go – OMA! It’s a humdinger of a show and seventy-two hours later I’m still laughing at it. Fantastic!