Reviewer: Laura Maley
Providing her own warm-up, Shappi Khorsandi self-deprecatingly assures the audience that ‘Big Shappi’ will be along for the headline set of her sold-out show at The Lowry, and that she’ll be much funnier and sharper interacting with the audience. She sows the seeds of a running joke that she’s left her eight-month-old daughter in the car, setting the tone for some sharply observed stand-up.
One of the few women familiar to prime time comedy audiences in the UK (appearances include Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, QI and Live at the Apollo) Khorsandi is also recognisable to other audiences – appearing on numerous Radio 4 comedy shows as well as BBC’s Question Time.
Instantly likeable, Khorsandi singles out a few audience members, offering some slightly provocative comments. It’s a clever set-up to some of the more risqué material which follows, as is her nonchalant, deceptively throwaway line: “I don’t talk about sex”. In the warm-up slot she mentions having ‘Mummy brain’ a few times and her train of thought, and the pace, occasionally runs away from her – mainly in warm-up, but also in the main set.
Begun in the warm-up and continuing into the main set her material on the north south divide feels like a well-trod, slightly clichéd path but does result in one of the biggest laughs of the night for a punchline involving a trip to Paris.
What sets Khorsandi apart is the material that audiences aren’t used to hearing enough of in mainstream comedy, mixed with her own confessional edge. Material tonight includes her experiences and opinions on racism, sexual politics, giving birth, and being a single mother which go down well with quite a mixed crowd (from students to grandparents, and an even gender split). Some of her strongest material is the very personal – sometimes slightly dark, but boldly revealing – like discovering internet porn while pregnant. Similarly successful is a section about an unnamed rockstar boyfriend which will have many audience members surreptitiously searching a few terms on the Urban Dictionary website on their way home from the show. When Khorsandi looks guilty and says she’s telling the audience things she’s never told anyone before – it feels believable. Never mind that she’s saying it to other crowds on her tour, that freshness is crucial to an audience’s reception.
Covering a broad range of topics without one main focus point, the balance isn’t always successfully struck, and the transitions from item to item are not always smooth. But the audience leaves happy in the knowledge that when ‘Big Shappi’ does talk about sex, she really talks about sex, and in a fresh and very funny way.
Reviewed on 15 March 2014