Urooj Ashfaq: “Oh No!” at Melbourne 2024

**** (out of 5)

Based in Mumbai, Urooj Ashfaq‘s show has taken on new meaning since winning Best Newcomer at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe. Before, you might think “Oh No!” at how open she is about her religion, her childhood growing up with divorced parents in India, or her mental health. Since last August, she’s now thinking “Oh No!” at audiences who now come to see her with heightened expectations. Ashfaq brings this up at the top of her hour, noting how some of the fans in her audiences know her from YouTube clips (she has a half-million followers there, and almost as many on her Instagram), but perhaps more ticket-buyers in Melbourne may be coming by virtue of her Edinburgh win and seeing how she measures up.

Being a Muslim woman in comedy with divorced parents might make her an edgy comedian in India, but in Australia or anywhere else, that’s not so rare, and she’s certainly not unique in her industry for needing and seeking therapy. There’s perhaps a bit too much reliance on interacting with her audience to probe them for their experiences with education, therapy, or crying, all of which is meant to place her experiences in context for us. But there’s something charming and inviting about her personality that makes up for that, and her psychology degree pays off in her understanding how to win us over. This still feels like a newcomer introducing herself to the world. It’s a start. But where does she go from here? That’ll truly be the show worth seeing.

Urooj Ashfaq presents “Oh No!” through 14 April at the 2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

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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