After supporting the likes of Omid Djalili and Patrick Monahan, Aatif Nawaz brings this year’s Edinburgh Fringe offering, and his second hour long show, Muslims Do It Five Times a Day, to the Museum of Comedy in London.
Nawaz bursts onto the stage with a hearty “hello” that immediately announces his likeable persona and begins with an extended bout of audience interaction. It is no accident, he tells us, that in “a room filled with brown people, I chose the white one” to answer what they believe it is that Muslims do five times a day. It is, of course, praying although Nawaz, a practising Muslim, is frank and witty about the other crude implication of his chosen title. At this Nawaz excels, making his audience, regardless of religion or ethnicity, feel comfortable and unified in a discourse concerning Islam that can sometimes be polarised. It is here that Nawaz’s main “point” appears to lie: he observes a “gap” emerging between Muslims and non-Muslims but wants to use this platform as a means of reminding us that “essentially we’re all the same”.
Nawaz is a good out-and-out gag writer, though sometimes his points can become slow and laboured with lengthy gaps between punchlines. His material can lack originality, his satirisation of his traditional mother a variation of content that I have seen numerous times before. Furthermore, his “Top Five Stupid Fatwas”, although funny, takes on a simple-list format that lacks inventiveness. Its wider message is more nuanced, however, included as a part of Nawaz’s lesson on how to make fun of Muslims, focussing on the minority of “stupid” people that exists in any group of people; by learning to make fun of and talk kindly about Muslims the way we would any other religious group, we begin to break down linguistic barriers enforced by the ultra-PC or the far right.
If you want to see an accomplished comedian with a strong understanding of his audience, talking about an important and prevalent issue, then I would certainly recommend going to see Aatif Nawaz.