Before we begin, let’s address something related to this album but unrelated to the comedy. At about the midpoint, the man on stage—the funny, laidback stand-up Ahmed Bharoocha—is forced to shush some chatty woman in the audience, reminding her that a live recording is happening. There’s something to be said for letting a little bit of that bleed into the mix so we get more of a “you were there” feeling as we listen to the set. But it also drives me batty that after decades of stand-up performances happening all around the world, people still haven’t gotten the message that interrupting the act, whether by heckling or just not shutting up, is a bad look.
It’s especially frustrating with this album as Bharoocha’s comedy isn’t the kind that gets you riled up to the point where you have to holler, or drives you to natter on at your friend in response to something. His stand-up is far more playful and absurdist, full of silly wordplay and a bit of racial politics. Mostly, though, he just wants to regale his audience with goofy stories about his family, his numerous personal foibles, and some fun stuff about animals. They’re the kind of jokes that keep rolling back into your head days later so you can savor their clean, punchy construction and Bharoocha’s understated delivery.
Thinking back on it, you might also admire how well paced the set on Almond Badoody (a play on the opening joke that mocks how people screw up his birth name) really is. Bharoocha has some political points to make and make fun of, but he guides us there gently, letting his fear of cats and his father’s hysterical concerns lead the way. That sets the table nicely for an exploration of the cultural clash in his household (his father is a Pakistani Muslim while his mom is Irish Catholic). So too is his best material, a fast-paced excoriation/appreciation for world religions, set between jokes about ventriloquist dummies and how quiet he is during sex.
Bharoocha’s comedy isn’t innovative by any stretch, nor does it really need to be. Like a great stand-up should, he gives us an unfiltered look into his unusual perspective on life in the modern age. We might not have needed another picking apart of religious mores, but his angle about the absurdities of many of these beliefs is fresh and funny. Even more so, naturally, is his more personal material. His portrayal of his father is clearly loving in spite of the fact that we’re all laughing at the thought of him accidentally stealing someone’s car and warning his son of potential stampedes in the city street. It all combines to create one of 2016’s finest comedy releases. So shut up and listen.
Robert Ham is a regular contributor to Paste and the author of Empire: The Unauthorized Untold Story, out now via Regan Arts. Follow him on Twitter.