Tez Ilyas interview: The British experience

Feature by James McColl | 29 Jul 2016
  • Tez Ilyas

Tez Ilyas' sophomore Edinburgh Fringe show Made In Britain promises to reveal more about his family life than his satirical debut, while still discussing British identity

“I love being on stage! The longer I can be on stage, the happier I am," Tez Ilyas says about the transition from shorter sets to a longer Edinburgh show. “It definitely affords you a little bit of time to be indulgent and talk about the things that matter to you, and explain the things that people don’t necessarily know.”

At last year’s Fringe, Ilyas decided to buck the trend and opt for a different kind of debut with his acclaimed show TEZ Talks: "There were a lot of things I wanted to say in TEZ Talks and I got across all those messages through humour. It was one of the more difficult and challenging things I’ve ever done, and getting the tour right took such a long time. By the time I took it to Edinburgh it was exactly the show I had envisioned in my head; I’m so pleased that it was received so well by so many people”.

TEZ Talks dealt with a lot of issues facing British Muslims, with Ilyas unafraid to approach an audience with hard-hitting subjects: "At first they almost didn’t realise. It was almost like they weren’t watching comedy – like I was holding them hostage," he says. "I thought, 'I can’t do a run like that for 25 nights – it would kill me.' So the approach became a bit sillier and getting the tone right took a long time. Once that show was done and well received I said right, the second show; it would actually be good for the audience to find out who I am now.”

This year, he sets out to make up for lost ground with Made in Britain.

"I think Made in Britain will be a lot more personal. There are going to be stories in there, things that have happened in my life that I want to talk about. I’m going to talk about my parents, my big family and inevitably, because I am Muslim, there will be one or two bits in there about how certain life events have affected me and how certain news stories have affected me personally.”

A core theme running through both shows is unity over division, but what does his family think of him delving into the personal this year?

Tez laughs. "I haven’t really told them. I think it would be better to apologise than ask for permission and there’s nothing in the show that they would be too mad about so I think it’s OK. My family are very private people; I touch on certain things that have happened but don’t go into detail about anything in the show.” He adds: “I really enjoy watching people’s faces in this new show when I reveal a couple of things about myself – they look at me as if to say, 'What?!'

“I think one of the messages I want to get across in Made in Britain is that even though some of my life experiences haven’t been necessarily traditional British experiences, just by virtue of the fact that they have happened in Britain, they are now British experiences.

"I’ve shown I can do the satirical thing. Luckily it was received well so I’m going to concentrate on doing a really strong hour of stand-up.”

Tez Ilyas: Made in Britain, Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker Two), 3-28 Aug (not 15), 5:30pm, £6-12.