Yaseen Kader’s ‘Smile’ was eminently relatable and refreshing on a tiring Monday evening. The one hour show begins with a clip of a toddler who refuses to smile on camera. Adult Yaseen makes his entry a minute later, and starts by setting the premise of leaving Cambridge for a year.
The anecdotes about his life during this year are crisp, well-timed and quite hilarious; his crush on three-year-old Naomi and her slightly older sister will draw anything from hysterical laughter to a quiet chuckle. There is also the bonus of endless references to pop culture – the aside on John Travolta’s career was pure gold.
Sadly, there were a few moments that were stretched too far. While it was immensely heartening to see a genuine awareness of the more problematic aspects of raunchy jokes, the explanations for these did occasionally go on for a bit too long.
One of the strengths of the show was definitely its skillful handling of material that seldom turns up in stand-up comedy. Kader deals with cognitive behavioral therapy, racism at NY immigration, and that most unfunny thing of all – 9/11.
Long interludes of seriousness, even sincerity, interspersed and underwrote the comedy. The hilarity of Freudian therapy and sleeping through an exam can only be appreciated when held against a stark, forceful narration of the experience of depression. This honesty is a force throughout, except at the very end, where the earnestness becomes slightly too heavy, and the audience does not get a chance to recover the earlier mood of light humor.
‘Smile’ is a short and endearing piece; hilarious and touching by turns. It is very entertaining and should Yaseen ever repeat the show it would definitely be worth a watch.
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