The title Aatificial Intelligence is conceived, in part, as a handy guide to help Joe Public pronounce Aatif Nawaz’s name. A lot of people get it wrong. The show is about advice, journalism, stereotypes – and how a lot of people get those wrong too. And it’s also a show about being a Muslim, with all the people-getting-things-wrong that entails.
Nawaz is instantly likeable, with a big old smile and gently self-effacing nature. He begins by getting to know the audience – but in a way that quickly blows away the classic fear of participation, because it feels like we’re just hanging out with him in his living room. Him and his wife and some bus drivers. This is where the venue choice shows its worth, Nawaz having turned down a paid, name-in-lights slot in favour of staying closer to the more intimate spirit of the free Fringe.
Aatif paints a cheerful commentary on living in Britain as a Muslim, knowingly amplifying and poking fun at all the stereotypes. He draws particularly apt parallels and contradictions between the treatment of different faiths and lives, but he really excels in his light-hearted but damning critiques of the way the world twists and stretches the truth. See, for example in his Daily Mail headline generator segment, following onto his brief topical analysis of the recent London Mayoral election.
There are the obvious easy Brexit and Trump references, but he doesn’t let these steal focus. He does however sometimes toe a fine line of gratuitousness – with more than a couple of bomb jokes – and some parts of the show seem to rely a little too much on chatting to the audience. Occasionally it feels like Nawaz is trying to kill time, a pleasant time though it may be.
This is an enjoyable hour with a new old friend, in which we are drawn into a web of colourful anecdotes, observations, and exaggerations. Nawaz does a great job of lambasting all the common stereotypes by owning those stereotypes, and presenting them in bright comic light.