After a successful run at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Tez Ilyas is taking Teztify on the road with dates including The Komedia in Brighton on April 8.
As he says, Teztify is a pun on his name. But it is also his chance to testify against some of the assumptions which get made about him as a northern, working-class, British Asian Muslim.
“I am from Blackburn. It was a nice place. There were quite a few parks where you could hang out until you got called in at night, and I had a pretty working-class upbringing.”
And he specifies the point because he believes that generally people talking about working class will mean white working class: “But actually most of the ethnic minorities are working class, and in my industry, I am very interested in the way that these people are represented.”
His fear is that the business and the arts in general are becoming more and more middle class: “When you hear voices on TV, there are not many working-class ones any more, not like there used to be back in the 70s and the 80s. All the arts are changing significantly. There was less opportunities now for working-class people.
“Partly it is because of subsidies going and also it is because of all the internships you get in London which are unpaid and which you can only do if you are funded by the bank of mum and dad. It is getting too expensive to go to university, too expensive to go to drama school.
“I was lucky that I had a day job that allowed me to do the stand-up in the evenings for the six or seven years while I was learning to be a stand-up. Without that day job, I just wouldn’t have been able to make it in stand-up comedy.
“I think the arts are becoming more middle class. There are other people smarter than me that have written about that. The problem is that it leads to a more homogenised narrative in the arts when the arts really ought to be lots of different stories from lots of different perspectives. There should be more diversity in the arts…”
But don’t go thinking Tez is going to be lecturing you in Brighton: “My job first and foremost is to be funny. I want people to go away thinking ‘That was funny’ and if I make them think about other things, then that’s just a bonus. If they go away thinking ‘Well, that was really fascinating’ but didn’t find it funny, well then I have got it wrong.”
And another reason for extra laughs in Brighton is that the Brighton date falls on his birthday. And no, he hadn’t thought about jumping out of his own cake.
“But if people want to bring cakes, well….”
So how old is he?
“I can tell you that I am not 25.”
What other ages is he not?
“I am not 30 and I am definitely not 40.”
Also by Phil: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2