Race and class; east London and Cambridge. A poignant and unashamedly bold premise for a funny evening.
Laughing all the way to the bank was, unfortunately for those pursuing potential shows to watch now, a one-night-only hour of stand-up comedy by current Footlight, Chakira Alin.
The Corpus Playroom is such a great venue for stand-up. It’s intimate: the divided audience gets two different angles. This was a nice fit for Monday evening’s main show.
The songs and audience participation genuinely accompanied the stand-up.
And it was one that had it all – a wonderfully awkward pre-recorded audio short, honest chats with the audience, pretty brutal songs and even a bit of crowd participation. I really appreciated this variation and, most importantly, because it wasn’t just for the sake of it. The songs and audience participation genuinely accompanied the stand-up. We also got some hilarious moments of awkward interaction between Chakira and the show’s fantastic musical accompanist.
Right from the start, the crowd really got to know Chakira’s humorous persona. I loved the swaggy outfit, front and centre of the visually hilarious advertising. It carried with it bags of self-conscious irony. A deliberately laboured glasses change right at the start awkwardly played into the irony.
Through what felt like a good old chat, we were taken on a journey through childhood up to university, made especially funny by the addition of Chakira’s parents on the front row, who were lovingly, but not without familial banter, referenced throughout.
This was bold stuff and its originality, worthy of real credit; not often does Cambridge student comedy go down such a route.
The audience could not help but be impressed with the show’s hilarious grappling with some rather dark subject matter, including a shooting and perhaps most dark – civil war. This was bold stuff and its originality, worthy of real credit; not often does Cambridge student comedy go down such a route.
After a sarcastically loving description of the London Borough of Newham, and its stellar mental health record, we were plunged right into Chakira’s personal class dichotomy – the frustration of being middle-class at heart in a working-class world. This tension was portrayed brilliantly.
As the premise of mismatched social class was taken further, I became slightly concerned at the angle punch lines when ‘white working class’ people cropped up as a mid-section topic of discussion. In fairness to the show, it goes without saying that class is always going to be such a prickly subject for comics to dissect, especially when it intersects with race and the geographical inequalities of the UK.
When the question ‘do they even exist?’ with regards to ‘poor white people’ was begged, I worried a section of the room would be lost. I think this was where Chakira’s witty ironic persona worked so well. What started for me as a minute or two of uncertainty, followed by a fairly assured and, most importantly, funny subversion of the audience’s own subconscious prejudices.
By listening in good faith, the potential for irony and satire is so much greater.
I firmly believe you have to be made to feel a bit uncomfortable with stand-up to fully appreciate the jokes. By listening in good faith, the potential for irony and satire is so much greater.
As Chakira turned to the middle-class world of the future, the room was bellyaching throughout a brilliant section on that well-known, student-revered, chickpea derivative. Of course, we’re talking about hummus. And, thematically, the ripping of the middle-class Cambridge student archetype, which Chakira wittily juxtaposed with the opening childhood world of east London, worked so well with the brutal lyrics of several songs.
These comic ballads, parodying of course the music Chakira’s nominal Colombian counterpart, had the entire crowd giggling right through a no-holds-barred slating of “softboys” and middle-class yummy mummies. Chakira has a truly keen eye for the latest fashion stereotypes, mercilessly sticking it to the ‘working-class cosplay’ of Cambridge private school boys, which the crowd really enjoyed. Oh and by the way, if you went to private, Chakira will know your household income.
Laughing all the way to the Bank felt above all like a conversation. Even with such a humorous persona, the show was wryly honest and personal.