Tez Ilyas is bringing his “silly, smart and subversive” comedy to Aberdeen for the first time this week… all he asks is a tanker of oil in return.
“Hopefully I’ll get some gallons of oil as a thank you gift for coming up, just a trailer of oil to hitch to the back of my car and take back to England,” said the funny man who will play The Lemon Tree on Thursday September 30.
“But just a lovely audience would be nice, a lovely, full audience coming out who want to watch comedy after being stuck indoors for 18-months and want to watch a comedy show and enjoy themselves.”
It’s a fair enough request as the celebrated comedy star ventures to the Granite City, arriving as part of an extensive UK tour with his show, Vicked.
Which takes us to what audiences can expect from a live stand-up set from Tez, who won fans with his phenomenally-popular TEZ Talks live shows – inspired by his life as a British Muslim – and Radio 4 series, as well as Channel 4 comedy The Tez 0’Clock Show, and the multi-award-winning Man Like Mobeen (BBC Three).
Tez Ilyas is delighted to be touring again
“It’s a fun show about the things I’ve been thinking about over the past 18 months to two years,” said the Blackburn-born comedian.
“It’s about how I’m getting grumpier, whether that’s linked to my age or just my annoying nieces and nephews that I’ve got in my life and then just a little bit about what’s happening in the world itself.”
Tez is delighted to be back touring again after the coronavirus pandemic shut down live entertainment for the better part of 18 months. Although he does admit it was a strange experience to begin with.
“It was so weird. In the first few weeks, I didn’t have the stamina, because for 15 months we were at home. I was doing Zoom gigs, or doing a lot of things like writing a book, but generally being at home with maybe the odd trip away, but that was very, very rare,” he said.
“So I didn’t have that stamina to drive to London, stay for a couple of days and drive back up after a gig in the middle of the night like which I used to do before the pandemic quite regularly.
“But quickly my mind and body just decided ‘we’re doing this again lads, apologies but this is what we’re doing now’. So I very quickly got back into the swing of things. There’s nothing like being on stage, like I missed that so much.”
So it is perfectly understandable that Covid will be part of the many subjects Tez lights on in his stand-up.
Covid is the elephant in the room
“A small part it is Covid-related, obviously. It’s the elephant in the room, it’s the biggest thing that’s happened to us since World War Two, it affected everyone in the world. So you can’t not talk about it.”
It’s a theme he will be touching on for many nights in many places across the UK. His relentless touring doesn’t stop until December 5, finishing up in Manchester.
Touring with stand-up is a very different life from the path he set out on. Tez was originally a civil servant, having moved to London. So what made him try his hand at comedy?
“I think what it was, is I’m just so funny. And I felt like it would be a disservice of me to deny this gift to the world,” he said, laughing.
But, being serious for a moment, while he has always enjoyed making people laugh he had no desire or ambition to be a stand-up. It’s all Google’s fault.
“When I was in London I was Googling writing workshops, then I saw a stand-up workshop. Before that, it had never crossed my mind. But I thought, my friends tell me I’m funny, so worst-case scenario, I go on this thing and make a fool of myself, but I’d meet new people and I can live with that,” he said.
“This was in spring or summer of 2010 when I went on it, really enjoyed it, did a showcase – which was my first gig – and never looked back and here I am now going to, I was going to say sunny Aberdeen, but that might not be quite right.”
Familiar and welcome face on telly
It’s paid off for him. As well as his own shows he is becoming an increasingly familiar – and welcome – face on telly with appearances on shows such as Live At The Apollo, The Last Leg, Mock The Week, and many others.
Garnering increasing critical and press attention, he was even dubbed “Blackburn’s Chris Rock” by one heavyweight national newspaper.
“That’s a bit silly, isn’t it,” he said. “It’s probably the most flattering thing anyone could say about me. Talk about the opposite of damning with faint praise,” he said.
“I mean, I would describe myself as silly, smart and subversive – those are all the three parts of my personality. I love being silly, I’m a little bit smart, a bit cheeky and stuff. And then I love being subversive.
“I love taking people on paths and then surprising them with the punches and that they can’t see coming.”
But it doesn’t really matter what anyone else calls him. All Tez is really interested in is what his audiences think – including the folk heading for The Lemon Tree on Thursday.
“I want them to have loved the show and to have laughed their butts off,” he said.
“Enjoy yourselves and let loose. We’ve gone through unprecedented times that no one saw coming. You deserve a night off. I just want to send you home with a big smile on your face.”
You can get tickets for Tez’s show at The Lemon Tree at aberdeenperformingarts.com
You might also like…