WILL KENNAWAY is impressed by the potential shown in this new hour of stand-up
Yaseen Kader spends his first full hour of stand-up going over what’s happened to him over the past year.
He’s had depression, he’s taken a year off from his degree, and he’s taken a creative writing course in New York. He’s a pretty endearing guy and manages to get plenty of laughs from a sympathetic audience.
Kader definitely ticks all the usual stand-up boxes: he speaks vividly and confidently, his anecdotes are amusing, and his take on things a little off-kilter in just the way we expect from our comics.
His big thing is what he calls an obsession on his part with words and with references, and his set is littered with fragments of pop culture.
Starting with his confession of a brief and confusing childhood crush on Cole Sprouse (of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody fame), comedy and film are always kept in the picture.
The real backbone of this set, though, is Kader’s struggle with depression, and it is this element of his comedy that provides both the best and worst material.
The description of what it’s like to literally sleep through an exam is hilarious; the often overlong asides on what depression is broadly ‘like’, often explicitly flagged up as unfunny, less so. A stand-up set probably shouldn’t contain material that the performer himself knows is not funny, and which he actually warns the audience about in advance.
Indeed, there is a broader tendency to over-egg the pudding a little. The observations on American place-names are amusing, but the jokes are not worth the drawn out build-up — and his complaint that he sees the world through ‘words and irony’ rather than actually engaging with things and people doesn’t get any more amusing the 8th time it is repeated, either.
The strongest material comes from his experiences in America. It’s a series of anecdotes from his experiences with OKCupid dates — themselves pretty funny — which are only made more bleakly amusing by the context of his depression at the time.
When, as he does in this section, Kader manages to balance his self-deprecating irony, arsenal of pop-culture references, and anecdotes surrounding his mental health issues, he produces great stand-up.
If he can draw off the more self-indulgent and explicitly unfunny elements of his sets he should go on to do good things.