"The aim is to make something that makes the last one feel like dog shit."
He's been performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the last eight years without a break, he's received two consecutive Best Show nominations at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards in 2017 and 2018 and now Fringe favourite Ahir Shah is returning with Dots, a brand new hour of stand-up.
Dots promises to explore love, sadness, belief, Mexico, cigarettes, dead German sociologists, pragmatism, idealism, giving up, and not giving up and during our chat he admits that writing an hour-long show isn't that difficult, being nominated is nice and talks about why he's happy to perform in the early afternoon.
You've performed a solo hour at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every year since 2011, can you ever see a year where you don't take part?
I don't know. Because I've been going up since I was so young it's just become a natural part of the end of my year. It's weird because I went from education to this and it almost continues the patter of an end of year exam. I do all my revision and my previews and then I go up to Scotland and get marked.
I understand the temptation of not doing it one year but equally I would be at a total loss over what to do in August. Equally when friends who usually go up don't go up, they send me pics of them on their holidays, so actually it's not that bad.
You were nominated for Best Show in 2017 and 2018, how important is that recognition?
You'd be lying if you said it wasn't nice. But equally the pressure should come from ones self wanting to make a better thing than the previous thing, that's the aim really. The aim is to make something that makes the last one feel like dog shit.
When did you start working on this year's show?
It just comes organically over the year. When you finish Edinburgh or a tour, it's like a little room in your mind gets opened again that had been shut off for ages because you just didn't have the bandwidth to be thinking of new stuff. So you find yourself immediately spewing new material.
What can people expect from this year's show?
It's going to be about the necessity, utility and absence of certainty. And I'm absolutely certain about that. It'll be a lot funnier than I can possibly make it sound.
You've always had one-word titles for your show. I'm guessing at this stage that's deliberate?
Yeah. I don't know how much you know about when you have to sign up for all this shit but it's very early on in the year so most people are really just guessing when they say what their show is going to be about.
So it's spectacularly unwise to say you're going to perform an entire hour-long routine about bluetooth speakers and end up putting absolutely nothing about that in the show.
Even Dots, it had relevance when I submitted the show and now it no longer features, at all! It's just a word. But it does serve as a reminder to me in my head of what the show used to be.
How have the previews been going?
I really like this stage where in between every preview you take a sledgehammer to the entire fucking thing and make something drastically new. It's a bit like - if it's not too tenuous, which it definitely is - making a sculpture out of a big bit of rock and the last bits with a tiny chisel are really nice to do, but nothing's as satisfying with giving the rock a fuck off blow with a hammer.
You're performing in the early afternoon again. Do you enjoy that time to perform?
Oh it's lovely! People have only had maybe one drink so they're not going to be out of their heads. I also think it's a nice challenge to be the thing that sets up people's day, this will almost certainly be the first show most people have seen that day so let's set a nice high bar... hopefully. Or if I fail to set that bar at least there are other shows later on to make the day better!
And you're performing at the Monkey Barrel this year. Happy with that venue?
Yes. I performed at Cabaret Voltaire for the last three years on their free festival which I really really loved but for logistical reasons became happily difficult so this is the first time doing Monkey Barrel.
They've got a good system going on, you pay a certain amount to reserve a seat and then you can top it up at the end. I think that creates a nice middle ground between the free festival which I absolutely adore and think is the right shout for more people than do it, and the very expensive paid venues where absolutely everyone is making a large amount of money apart from the person who created the work.
Do you enjoy having that Edinburgh hour?
It's lovely. You genuinely can talk about anything. Your only obligation is that it's got to be funny and as long as it is you can explore absolutely whatever you want. It's a wonderful opportunity.
Letting the secret out slightly, making an hour of comedy is substantially easier than we claim it is. It's essentially writing 5 minutes of material a month between August and August - you can do that!
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I piss so much! As a human being I feel I need to be empty before going on stage.
What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh this year?
Do you ever get that thing with a deadline where the thing's not quite done yet but you know at a given time in the future it will just have to be. I'm looking forward to the fact that on July 30th I am going to get on a train from King's Cross and be able to sit there with my friends and talk about all the things that we're looking forward to because all of our shows will definitely be done and ready and very good by then.
Where's your favourite place to relax in Edinburgh?
I'm a big fan of a small pub called Salt Horse on Blackfriars Street which sell very nice beer and you can have a very relaxing glass of strange beer there. It's at its best when it's not very busy so it's very important to me that anyone reading this knows that they're not invited because it's mine.
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
Funny. Good. Fab. Dots. Dots.
Ahir Shah: Dots runs from 1st - 25th August at 1.45pm at Monkey Barrel Comedy (Monkey Barrel 3). Book tickets here.