Paul Chowdhry: “Family-Friendly Comedian” at Edinburgh Fringe 2023

***1/2 (out of 5)

There are loads of dead family member shows at the Fringe, and Paul Chowdhry’s return to Edinburgh certainly could’ve been among them. He lost his mum early in 2021 from COVID, then his father last year. But that’s not where Chowdhry’s focus is at this Fringe.

Rather, his struggle here is on his professional path. On his Live Innit tour, which resulted in an Amazon Prime Video special, Chowdhry performed to 10,000 fans in the arena at Wembley in November 2017. He recalls coming to the Fringe since 1999, and becoming the first British comedian of Asian descent to joke to the masses on TV, but in the years since, he has found his aspirations surpassed by the younger British-Asian comedians who’ve followed him through the doors he kicked down. So you could forgive him, perhaps, for being a bit bitter. He’s certainly that, but also going to mock the industry with this show in which he attempts to re-ingratiate himself with the business, and move from bitter to better, by becoming, well, yes, a “family-friendly comedian.” That ought to be enough to earn him a shot presenting Top Gear, right? Or if not that, then a dating show, or a kids show. His crowd work plays upon the wide racial/ethnic diversity in his audiences. His jokes, however, continue to be divisive enough for him to admit he may not get those TV presenting gigs just yet. The closest thing he has to a catchphrase? How he’s lost half the room, or most of the room, with the joke he had just told. It becomes quite clear he doesn’t sincerely want to sell out by going the family-friendly route. Whilst that might not propel him back into the arenas, his tack certainly proves popular enough for the raucous crowds in the hot Cabaret Bar this month.

Paul Chowdhry: Family-Friendly Comedian runs through Aug. 28 at Pleasance Courtyard Cabaret Bar

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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