Urooj Ashfaq @ Monkey Barrel, Edinburgh

Mumbai comedian Urooj Ashfaq, winner of 2023's Edinburgh Fringe Best Newcomer Award, makes a triumphant return to Edinburgh

Review by Emma Sullivan | 30 Jan 2024
  • Urooj Ashfaq

Urooj Ashfaq opens tonight's show with her version of an English accent, blithely embarrassing her Indian following and poking fun at the obliviousness of white privilege, unaccustomed to Indian accents. It’s an ingenious opening gambit: a way of acknowledging her distinctiveness while avoiding the perils of self-deprecation, and demonstrating her ability to bridge the cultural divide. 

With an audience fairly evenly split between brown and white faces, she addresses those here for a taste of home, and those drawn by Ashfaq's newcomer award – and there’s a characteristically teasing quality in both the mock-barbed comments about those enjoying the delights of a low air pollution index (‘not very patriotic’) and the white audience waiting to be wooed.

Her observational insights (about Indian school systems, and disciplinarian mothers) go down a treat – and for those audience members unfamiliar with the detail it’s delightful too, both in opening up a different world and the vicarious pleasure in seeing the resonance for others.  Ashfaq handles crowd work beautifully, coaxing the audience to contribute to her themes of divorce and therapy (edgy in India, less so here, she admits). She also has a nice way with hecklers – ‘I was given an award’, she says more in sorrow than in anger, to one loud interruption. 

One premise about her experiences in therapy – requests from her poor friends to smuggle in their questions – proves particularly fruitful. Her account of ferrying back an answer to a question about porn addiction is pitch perfect, and just one instance of Ashfaq’s gift for physical comedy: her mobile expressions and the touches of slapstick are just another facet of her very considerable charm. 

Urooj Ashfaq: Oh No!, reviewed on 23 Jan 2024 at Monkey Barrel, Edinburgh; touring the UK until 7 Feb
Follow Urooj on Instagram @uroojashfaq or on her YouTube channel