Paul Chowdhry at New Greenham Arts, Newbury on Wednesday, April 27
BRITISH-Indian comedian Paul Chowdhry got a surprise when he walked on stage at New Greenham Arts, commenting “this is the whitest audience I’ve ever had” - although the dedication of his Asian fans was demonstrated by some having travelled from as far as Southampton for the initial date of his first national tour.
Already well-known among the Asian community, Chowdhry has a number of catchphrases that his fans clearly loved, but meant that it took a while for those unfamiliar with his work to get fully up to speed with his hard-hitting style.
However, once proceedings were fully warmed up, Chowdhry proved to be a most interesting and entertaining comedian, with a show that touched on issues of racism, ignorance, generation gaps and miscommunication, demonstrating that it is possible for people from every culture to laugh at themselves and each other if there is mutual respect and appreciation.
Apart from some misjudged off-the-cuff jokes aimed at a couple in the audience about the man giving his partner a “slap” - taken good-naturedly by the targets, but touching on a theme which I don’t think should ever play a part in a comedy show - Chowdhry balanced his rehearsed material well with audience interaction. He also demonstrated a talent for mimicry and threw out some cracking one-liners - “The Royal Wedding will have 1,900 guests attending. That’s just one side of the family at an Indian wedding”.
An unintentionally funny moment arose when Chowdhry accidentally referred to the “Newbury Gazette”, resulting in several heckles of “Nooo, it’s the Newbury Weekly News” from different parts of the room. “Now I know what really upsets you,” commented Chowdhry. That’s right - it’s not jokes about the BNP membership helpline being run from India that rises the hackles of a Newbury audience - it’s not getting the name of the local newspaper correct. I think he felt suitably chastened.
Chowdhry’s Not PC national tour may herald the start of him hitting the mainstream, but I get the feeling that he won’t be prepared to compromise his act for the comfort of a wider audience. Don’t expect to see him chatting on Alan Titmarsh’s sofa any time soon, but certainly try to catch him live if you get the chance.
* Paul Chowdhry will be at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon on June 8 and The Forge at The Anvil in Basingstoke on June 23.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, May 5 2011