MICF Review: Sami Shah – Punching Down

Pakistani Ex-Pat journalist/comedian Sami Shah celebrates his citizenship and, in the process, eschews himself and his living experience in an Australia. Bounding with nervous energy, affability and an uncanny ability to make light of some very dark realities, Shah is as disarming as he is insightful. A winner!

As a caucasian Australian born and bred, raised as a student of Australian political history and a healthy exposure to other cultures, there’s little doubt the current climate of national discourse has degraded substantially. For this author, dear reader, it began with former Prime Sinister Tony Abbott and his utterly incomprehensible racist drivel, the treatment of asylum seekers, followed by the continued outright attacks from the right on racial vilification, that’s given way for the rise of Reclaim Australia and the return of Pauline Hanson. Yes, my internal moral outrage boils over on a daily basis for many reasons yet, through all my learnings and bleatings, I often forget to take into account what the experience must be like for an actual immigrant.

Enter Sami Shah.

An Ex-Pakistani journalist, Shah, a divorcee father of a 7.5 year old girl, gives us his experience of coming to Australia to land in a small town in Western Australia before making his way to Melbourne 2 years ago. And, through the course of his hour long Punching Down show, we get an affectionately juxtaposing narration on events in his life experience both here and back in Pakistan. He jokingly addresses how he should hate Pauline Hanson, but he doesn’t, he admires her because the confidence that she has in being that ugly is worthy of admiration. This, of course, is a joke but he deftly makes you think about issues like her from a different perspective.

He speaks candidly of suicide bombers and why their heads are still in tact after they explode. He proffers why every country needs immigrants from third world countries and the virtues of situational awareness. Amidst this funny anecdote he notes, expertly, the recent tragedy in Brisbane where an Indian Bus Driver was doused in kerosene and set on fire to his death with the remaining passengers on the vehicle saved by the selfless actions of an Ethiopian taxi driver who acted before thinking.

He turns the self deprecating eye on, confesses his guilt of racial stereotyping in a Brunswick Centrelink, reveals some hilariously high school level decision making involved in his divorce proceedings and asserts that body hair is a thing for him, and most Pakistani people, when watching porn.

So, while Shah is intent on having you laugh, he’s deftly sending you a distinct message. Yes our histories may differ, but under it all we’re humans and we’re better united than we are divided.

The show is full of energy and Shah frequently engages with the audience, happily calling out all of our ‘Melbourne Bullshit’ when trying to be too politically correct.

A hour with funnier, finer company would be hard to find as Sami Shah proves. Punching Down does everything but and is well worth your time.

★★★★1/2

SAMI SHAH – PUNCHING DOWN plays MALTHOUSE THEATRE until SUNDAY 23 APRIL, 2017 – GET YOUR TIX HERE