BN1 Chats to Tez Ilyas

This Blackburn-born actor/comedian has been stirring up the stand-up circuit since 2010. He’s hit the ground running, reaching several prestigious comedy award finals and has received huge acclaim wherever he goes. I spoke to Ilyas ahead of his performance at Brighton’s Komedia on Sun 2 April, which forms part of his first nationwide tour.

His latest gig will deliver more of the same quick-witted jokes and poignant takes on the British-Asian experience, which have made Ilyas’ work so popular over the past few years. “I am touring the show I took to the Edinburgh Fringe festival last year, I did Made in Britain there and it did really well! The show is about how I’ve had a lot of experiences in Britain, which haven’t been very mainstream given my background.” For a comedian who delivers such confident performances, it is intriguing to know if he feels more pressure due to the acclaim he has received. “Yes a little bit, when I go to do comedy clubs, I don’t normally feel the pressure because no one knows who I am. Then I surprise them by being funny I guess,” he jokes. “But when people have paid to specifically just see me, then yes, there is a bit of pressure there to make sure that I deliver some entertainment for them.”

Comedians sometimes adopt nicknames – think Al Murray’s The Pub Landlord – and on this topic, I wondered if Ilyas had a moniker or superhero-style alias. “I’ve never been asked that before, I guess because Tez Ilyas is quite easy to recognise. What I like to call my fans in a very tongue-in-cheek way is Tezbians,” he laughs. And one thing is for sure – this new breed of fanbase is on the rise.

Tez IlyasNo stranger to appearing on TV, Ilyas has appeared on many shows such as Channel 4’s Virtually Famous and more recently Comedy Central’s The Chris Ramsey Show. But when you’ve appeared on some of the best up-and-coming shows on TV and toured the entire country, what do you do next? “I am always on the radio. I have a BBC Radio 4 show, Tez Talks. So I will be recording that.” He continues, “I have been in touch with a couple of people to do some television stuff, but nothing concrete just yet.” An ambitious funny man, he’s got his eyes set on the top. He seems thoughtful for a moment before informing me, “I would love to be on Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats and Live at the Apollo. That would be amazing!” The way his career has skyrocketed in the last seven years, it would be no surprise if we see him appear on these shows anytime soon.

He never planned on being a comedian. Instead it came and grew onto Ilyas later in his life. With his style it’s no surprise he draws inspiration from a myriad of artists. “I am very heavily inspired by a lot of writers, such as Armando Iannucci, who made The Thick of It. I am a massive fan of Chris Morris. In terms of stand-up I would say that Stewart Lee has been a big influence.” Their style has evidently rubbed off on Ilyas, showing in his quick delivery reminiscent of the Iannucci created Malcolm Tucker, as well as his dark humour relating to current affairs, a style utilised by both Morris and Lee.

Political controversies are, naturally, a huge source of influence for comedians. In this sense, Ilyas is on point. Regarding Made in Britain, he tells me, “I’m changing it slightly given what is happening in the world with Donald Trump and stuff. The show was post-Brexit anyway so there is a bit of that in there.” He also jokes about the proposed travel ban in the United States. “Well obviously it’s a horrific idea, but if I was trying to make a joke about it… I mean its fine banning some people as long as you ban other people as well. So for example you should be banning people who go to an ice cream parlour then get a tub rather than a cone. Who are those animals?”

This will not be the first time Ilyas has come to Brighton and he has fond memories of the city. “Yes, I love Brighton! I never came as a kid but have a lot over the last five years. I came the first time for my friend’s wedding, they got married in Brighton. And then there has been a few times doing stand-up.” Ilyas will be at Brighton Fringe festival, an event he attends regularly, with a performance at Otherplace in Brighton later in the year.

Tez Ilyas with Made in Britain comes to Brighton’s Komedia on Sun 2 April.

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