BBC iPlayer TV review: British Muslim Comedy (shorts)
James R | On 05, Jul 2015
This week, the BBC Trust approved plans to develop BBC iPlayer from a basic catch-up TV site to a digital platform in its own right, but the Beeb has already established its VOD service as a showcase for talent, be they well-known or up-and-coming.
That’s perfectly demonstrated by this batch of exclusive comedy shorts, written and starring British Muslim comedians, which, during Ramadan, offer laughs and insight aplenty.
Part of the strength of these comedy shorts is the insight they give into the struggles that Muslims face during the current month of Ramadan. Sometimes, though, there’s a little more insight than there are laughs.
Guz Khan’s Roadman Ramadan sees Guzzy Bear explaining to his newly converted friend, Trev, what to expect from his first time fasting – not just from food, but from sinful thoughts and acts. The arrival of a hot woman provides obvious gags, while Khan’s rapid-fire delivery wears thin, but the odd witty pun (“war on error” is a highlight) and a smart reveal make for a likeable pay-off.
Things I have been asked as a British Muslim
Sadia Azmat’s brief tirade initially seems more stand-up set than film. Her rant about stereotypes and the media (The Daily Mail sits on her list of harmful things alongside porn), though, is fist-punchingly urgent. Quips about sandwiches keep things familiar and observational, but a surreal flourish involving scarfs turns this into a smartly presented piece of wonderful visual comedy. Combined with Azmat’s passionate delivery, it makes for a rousingly amusing – and honest – four minutes.
Asim and Sadi Chaudry’s short follows a similar fish-out-of-water scenario to Guz Khan’s, as naive white boy Max tries to fit in at his friend’s Eid celebration. Jokes about him accidentally saying “AIDS” are too forced to be funny, while the over-bearing rich uncle (who boasts of gold plated fish) feels too easy to make you chuckle. A pushy mother, though, steals scenes with her unfussy matchmaking, and the culture clash (Max, inevitably, fancies his friend’s sister) finds a surprisingly mature note to conclude on – proof that a short doesn’t need to finish with a punchline to leave an impression.
My First Fast
“Fruit is not food.”
Prince Abdi’s tale of his first fasting experience during Ramadan sounds simple, but turns out to be the most complex of all the shorts, thanks to its clever use of multiple perspectives. Cutting between the eight-year-old and his dad, who recalls things differently to his son, the conflicting accounts are consistently laugh-out-loud funny, while the whip-smart editing keeps things short and snappy. A hoot.
The Fast and the Fool
Tez Ilyas’ short is another of the series’ best entries. The Fast and the Fool follows a day in the light of an office worker, who faces even more challenges, thanks to those around him. Roadman Ramadan’s premise of being tempted by a hot woman is giving a more sophisticated twist here, with the use of a voice over venting our protagonist’s inner frustrations both putting us in a position of sympathy and delivering frequent giggles. As the anger boils higher and higher, the idea of Ilyas transforming from mild-mannered employee to potential asshole in order to remain pure and holy is a delight.
The British Muslim Comedy shorts are available to stream on BBC iPlayer until 18th July.
Photo: BBC iPlayer