|There were few Muslim acts performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, a real shame considering the tens of thousands of visitors drawn to the Edinburgh Festivals. The two Mirza's (Shazia and Jeff) were however on offer and it was something of a toss up as to which I managed to see. Regrettably, I (and a packed house of some 300 at the Edinburgh Underbelly) opted for Jeff.
Comical Ali begun the show assuring us all that there was absolutely no truth in the rumors that American infidels had taken control of key Iraqi cities; and as proof of this he referred to earlier discussions with his mother who was busy having a pedicure in Um Qasar. The Camp X-Ray scene showing prisoners being inflicted with Barry Manilow barely aroused a laugh, the interjection of a German member of the audience voicing his anger at the injustices being perpetrated in may parts of the world by the 'civilized' US, perhaps explaining why this and his previous act received such a frosty reception. Predictably, there was also a take on London's Abu Hamza in which he confesses to being saddened by being misunderstood by the British public. He asked how he could be regarded as anti-Semitic when he has a friend who has a Jewish friend? As proof of his love for aspects of British life, Hamza cites the excellent social security and credit card systems.
Winner of the 'Best Comedian' award in the 2001 BT Emma Awards, Jeff clearly has a good deal of talent. There was the odd flash of brilliance, which demonstrated how he has come to be dubbed as 'Europe's top stand up Asian act'. Amongst the more entertaining scenes were those that played on the tensions of being caught between cultural traditions. The story of his father's relationship with Satanic Verses was thoughtful, provocative and funny. Jeff recalled how his father, who has a Masters in English Literature, was torn between wanting to read Rushdie's notorious book and not wanting to buy a copy of the book in order to prevent Rushdie receiving any royalties. By way of compromise, he ended up spending £70 photocopying the £10 book! Life in the Mirza household was tense during the Rushdie affair but was made even more fraught by Mirza Senior's decision that the only appropriate place to read such an offensive book was in the one toilet in the house.
But these sparks of interest were few and far between and after a few one-liners about bearded men we were again subjected to more from Iraq - this time it was Saddam Hussain confessing that he sole reason for his coming to power in Iraq was to avenge an the wrongs done to a cat, an act of brutality he had unfortunately been witness to in his childhood. Disappointingly, when on the brink of apprehending the perpetrator of this vile deed he was deposed from power by a dog-lover and his poodle, stale references to Messers Bush and Blair.
Most were I suspect pleased when the long and wearisome hour-long walk with Jeff came to an end. Though hurt in Edinburgh, Mirza is I hope not fatally wounded as he has, I suspect, still much to offer.
Many thanks to Dr Aziz Sheikh for this review.
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