Comedy Review: Machines by Ahir Shah

Written by Sebastian Whale on 6 October 2016 in Culture

Shah's fifth solo show balances self-deprecation with his self-defined left-wing 'smug, self-satisfied superiority'.

An insurgent right and resurgent left have realigned the political centre ground. At home, champions of immigration have all but lost their voice. Purveyors of free movement are now in the minority. Curbs and controls are the order of the day. Open borders a thing of the past.

Watching on is comedian Ahir Shah. His grandfather moved from India with “£3 in his back pocket” before working on factory floors in Bradford. Two generations later, his grandson says he carries £25,000 in student and personal debt. Shah laments that he represents a net loss to his family.

Shah is currently touring his fifth solo show, Machines. He believes we are at a “tantalising doorway of the possible”, with a better world just out of reach. Yet reactionary forces and demagoguery seek to impose the worst of bygone eras on the present. Populists like Donald Trump (“Orange Shitler”) are holding back progress in areas from technology to societal integration due to fear of the unknown, he argues.

Shah captivates with extended soliloquys that explore his political thought process. His pithy articulation and changes of tempo ensures his jokes land and ideas resonate. He balances self-deprecation with his self-defined left-wing “smug, self-satisfied superiority”.

“I believe that everyone in the world is equal and the thing that unites them all is that I know what’s best for them,” he says.

He begins by lamenting how we have become “atomised” to the point of impotence. He sees stand-up as a rare vehicle for getting his ideas across. Machines is also an honest account of his turning to alcohol in lieu of being able to affect change.

Shah carefully blends the serious with the amusing, certainty with caution, modesty with intellectual clout. Machines is Shah trying to make sense of a world that is in a state of perpetual flux. His intellectual ponderings make for excellent viewing, and his seering take on the political landscape today won’t sit easy with everybody. Corbynistas are in for a hard time, Brexiteers too.

But as a new consensus forms around issues including immigration, Shah is a refreshing voice conveying its benefits for society. Machines provides an unashamedly entertaining 60 minutes of Shah’s take on issues from Isis through to Brexit that leaves you well nourished with comedic food for thought. It is an hour you won’t want back.


For tickets to see Machines, visit

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