Valentine’s Comedy Club brings love, laughter, and… a bit of cultural enlightenment with comic Tez Ilyas

Tez Ilyas is performing at the Spinnaker Comedy Club over Valentine's. Picture by Steve Ullathorne
Tez Ilyas is performing at the Spinnaker Comedy Club over Valentine's. Picture by Steve Ullathorne
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To paraphrase Shakespeare ever so slightly, if comedy be the food of love, then the Spinnaker Comedy Club has got you covered over the Valentine’s weekend.

Across three nights, top comics Paul McCaffrey, Ben Robson and Tez Ilyas will be performing, and although they’re billed as Valentine’s shows, you don’t need to being your loved one – just your sense of humour. 

Tez, riding high off the back of his last show Teztify and making his debut appearance on Live at The Apollo last November was ‘chilling’ back home in Blackburn when The Guide caught up with him.

Last time we spoke a couple of years ago, Tez was touring his previous show, Made in Britain. Born in Blackburn and considering himself British, but very much part of the Muslim community, his comedy often revolves around the clash of cultures and questions of identity.

How was it touring Teztify? ‘It was really good, I really enjoyed it, it was a different show to Made in Britain – it was more hard-hitting, but we live in a more hard-hitting world.’

Since then though he has moved out of London and back to Blackburn.

‘it was money and family basically. I didn’t want to spend my comedy earnings on massive rents in London. And I’m living at home, so it’s great – we’ve got big houses up here. It’s fine.’

And he’s spoken of the conflict between his family and those ‘champagne socialists’ he hangs out with down in London. Does he still move in those circles in down south?

‘I’ve removed myself from that slightly. But the people I hang around with in London, the things we talk about, the things we discuss, it’s probably very different to things people care about up here.

‘That whole thing about being “woke” and “identity politics,” that sort of stuff, it’s not that they don’t care about it, but people up here aren’t always on Twitter, they aren’t getting all of their opinions from blogs, they’re just living their day-to-day lives They’re very different conversations I might be having up here to down south.’

Does he find it easier to work on material now, then?

‘It’s just different here I think. I’ve got a better appreciation for observational humour because I’m living among the community – you see it day-to-day and you get reminded about things you might have forgotten about when you were living away from home. I’m probably observing a bit more and just enjoying it.’

Given his rising profile as a Muslim, does he feel he has to be protective of his faith?

‘I’ve grown up in this country and feeling very British, but looking at the way my community is talked about in the media and online, Twitter, forums, things like that, and you can’t help but be defensive.

‘Luckily I’ve been able to find the humour in that and people have largely agreed with me. But that’s happened by accident, not by design. And that’s not to say, I don’t talk about or joke about other things!’

Tez has also spoken in the past about his working class background. But does he see himself in the lineage of British working class comics at all?

‘Not really. Those people were products of their times, but they were very good joke writers. But my thing with that sort of stuff, whether you want to talk about race, or gay people or women, or whatever subject you want to talk about, if you’re able to say the things you want to say with those people in the room, then knock yourself out.

‘If you’re a white comic who want to say jokes about Asian people or black people, then if you want to say those jokes with those people in the room, then go for it. But if you only reserve those jokes for white people then there’s probably a problem.’

Which leads to a problem which has become very much of our time, particularly for comics – those taking offence on behalf of others.

‘Yeah, it’s very tiresome. I‘m lucky in that if I offend people I tend to do it directly. I don’t agree with Ricky Gervais’s notion that offence is something that’s given not taken – I think people have a right to be offended. You’re instinctually offended about something, you don’t usually think about it.

‘It used to be that people would write a letter to Points of View and that was the end of it, but social media kind of weaponised the idea being offended. It’s not a positive thing. People have the right to be offended and the right to voice their opinions, but ganging up on someone and trying to destroy their careers, I’m not sure I like that!’

Last week it was announced that Tez would be hosting a new late night satirical show on Channel 4, he also recently released a pilot for a new comedy show called Bounty, which he describes as ‘fairly autobiographical’, and the second series of the BBC3 sitcom, Man Like Mobeen, in which he has a regular role, is due to air soon.
‘The career’s going really well – I’m as busy now as I’ve ever been,’ he adds. ‘It’s all heading in the right direction.’

SPINNAKER COMEDY CLUB

Spinnaker Cafe, Gunwharf Quays

February 14-16

spinnakertower.co.uk