Autobiographical comedy with a slightly smutty centre from the unlikely star of Mock the Week
Andi Osho will be familiar to anybody who has happened upon such lamentable macho atrocities as BBC 2's Mock the Week. As a black, working-class female, she can’t help but stand out amongst the testosterone slathered, self-conscious male comics who define that programme. But what isn’t apparent from her television appearances is just how warm, engaging and downright rude her comedy is.
Osho immediately sets the tone in the Black Box on the opening night of the 2011 Out To Lunch Festival by making a reference to the venue, the nature of which I’ll leave readers to guess at. The recent NI water debacle hasn’t escaped her attention either, as she demonstrates by bringing her own bottle on stage 'just in case'.
Osho has an affable stage presence, conversing and disclosing rather than talking at an audience, and a large part of her act finds her talking to those foolish enough to have sat at the front.
Looking for representative members of the Belfast public, she instead finds some rather posh chandelier dealer (seriously) and what appears to be a dodgy businessman called Philip. It’s all part of her charm that her interaction with them finds the hapless audience members opening up to her completely. Osho's is a superior kind of comedy, one that coerces the weird and wonderful out of people rather than snatches.
The main thrust of Osho’s comedy draws gently but insightfully on her own childhood. References to school days and her extended family draw the biggest laughs of the evening, and the odd filthy aside adds a little extra frottage.
Referring to an uncle as 'a proper one, not one who touches you up', Osho describes his idea of parental leniency as 'not coming down hard on your kids like Mugabe'. It’s finely observed stuff, colourfully nailing a character we will never meet. However, the punches are ever so slightly pulled throughout, which means that there is never quite the killer blow to floor the back row.
When Osho describes a chav on her local bus asking the driver to hurry up because 'some of us has got to be in court, innit?', she follows it with mock horror that she might be associated with such people, but really she’s celebrating such lives, not denigrating them.
The descriptions of a giddy multi-cultural tapestry of a city like London may not quite chime with a still homogenously pasty Belfast audience, but Osho’s account of being harassed by West Indian kids in school for having Nigerian parents lays bare the absurdity and the tragedy behind all kinds of sectarianism. That she was told by her father to call them 'slaves' in retaliation is again funny and weirdly affecting.
Osho's final protracted spoken word section becomes a levity-defying incantation to a fictional, utopian Britain. In the end, the filth and the furry combine to create a kind of satisfyingly autobiographical performance with a slightly smutty yet soft centre - a few dirty jokes go a long way.