Guz Khan at the Harold Pinter Theatre review: a formidable entertainer
At the start of his set Guz Khan wondered aloud what he was doing performing at the Harold Pinter Theatre. A white guy must have organised this, he joked. So how did the ex-teacher from Coventry get here? The answer is simple. The star of hit BBC comedy Man Like Mobeen is a charismatic comedian and formidable entertainer.
Even when his material is a little too broad or dated – there are some early observations about Rishi Sunak which suggest that he has not been following the news recently – he has such a persuasive personality that the punchlines still feel fresh. He’d probably be great in sales. Or, come to that, a great politician.
His style is accessible and relatable rather than cutting edge. The only time he comes close to referring to recent Muslim/Hindu tensions in Leicester is chatting about his childhood when there were squabbles between the religions – Khan is Muslim – over the Woolworth’s pick ‘n’ mix.
After a few unprintable asides about Prince Andrew looking after his late mother’s corgis and an anecdote about succumbing to Covid and seeing everything in Smurf blue just as he thought he was immune – “I was vexed bro” – it was when he talked about his schooldays that his set really hit a sweet spot.
Khan painted a picture of the annual visit to Coventry Cathedral that was so vivid you could smell the bus fumes. This is the kind of routine that the young Billy Connolly might have delivered if he had had South Asian roots and had grown up in the Midlands in the 1990s. Packed with detail, every digression prompting another laugh.
Elsewhere he paid tribute to his “gangster” mother, who brought him up after his father died when Khan was three. He dedicated the show to her, saying that all he wanted in life was her acceptance. A gag about his mum being unimpressed by one of his television appearances suggests that she is a extremely hard woman to please.
There will be further opportunities for mum to be unimpressed by her son onscreen soon. There is more Man Like Mobeen in the pipeline and other projects include Digman, a comedy set in the archaeology world, and the romcom How To Date Billy Walsh co-starring Nick Frost.
It looks like it might be increasingly hard for Khan to fit in more stand-up in the near future. Which would be a shame. His mother once told him that he was a “mistake”. It might have been said in jest but maybe it drove him on. As a stand-up Khan is very much a star. Make no mistake.
Harold Pinter Theatre, tonight; atgtickets.com