Aarmer Rahman’s show is profoundly moving – his performance is erudite (as usual), and his punch lines diligent in their construction and delivery. You can see in this show – in its lengths and breadth – the manner in which Rahman has become a student of comedy. The ways in which his craft has taken place around different kinds of comedic forms and that his craft has taken form around serious considerations around constructing his comedy. Rahman doesn’t preach to the converted, but is comedian for the left. It is a humour for decolonisation, and a narrative of solidarity and pride. But, what I felt leaving Aamer’s show was this greater sense of being moved in the sense of being thrown off centre.
There is the deepest of tragedies underpinning Aamer’s show – in speaking back to the terror of white colonial society. As someone who has been privileged so much by the relationships of this society, I kept coming back to James Baldwin’s words at Oxford University in 1965. Baldwin, discussing police violence against civil rights demonstrations in Selma Alabama, Baldwin said “What happens to the man who does it is in some ways much, much worse. Their moral lives have been destroyed by the plague called color” (1965). Aamer’s work is such an indictment of colonial society and the infinite ways it manifests and reinvents itself.
At times I felt like the show needed a helmsmen to guide the audience through the murky waters of punchlines in uneasy seas. Aamer’s work hinges on the need to laugh at the oppressor, but I felt like a gentle hand was needed to guide people through the tricky times when it is impossible to laugh. I don’t think this is the same as apologising for content, or turning the volume down on anger, or ensuring the privileged feel comfortable. I went to another show whose major theme was racism and much of the humour fell flat in its lack of confidence.
What I think I am referring to is the feeling of awkwardness during the show when I realised I was continuing to smile and laugh when the narrative had moved on – where dark humour had shifted to tragedy. I wondered if whether Aamer could have guided the audience a bit more in mediating this.
But this too is a part of the routine, a challenge in an already boundary pushing performance.
He deals with issues of colonialism, Israel/Palestine, nationalism, cultural appropriation, hip-hop, refugees, protest, the police and history and much more.
I went to uni with Aamer. I am always a little bit excited to tell people this: those of us who studied and grew politically alongside of him are not shy of, well, dropping his name here and there. For myself, this is out of a genuine pride in being associated with such an amazing talent. Make sure you see this show.
Aamer Rahman’s The Truth Hurts is on at the Melbourne Town Hall as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 27 to April 21 at the Melbourne Town Hall. There might be an extra show happening. Or something. Try calling at 7:30 if the show has sold out. For more information click here. For Aamer’s facebook page click here.