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I TALK TO Tez Ilyas

This August Tez Ilyas returns to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his third show in as many years, Teztify.

For a new comedian Tez has done incredibly well out of Edinburgh with his debut show TEZ Talks being turned into a full BBC Radio 4 series and already commissioned for a second. He’s also appeared on a number TV shows including BBC Three comedy Man Like Mobeen, Dave’s political show Unspun with Matt Forde, Comedy Central’s The Chris Ramsey Show and more recently he appeared on The Last Leg as a correspondent.

You’re back this year with your third show, what keeps you coming back?

I love the Fringe and you’ve just got to keep that momentum up, you can’t let it slip away. I enjoyed the process. Well actually, when I say I enjoy the process, I think it’s something I enjoy by the end. When it’s something that I’m happy with I can go “Oh that was fun.” That was a fun journey which you had to go on to get to the end product.

But when I’m in the middle of it all it can be pretty stressful.

What’s this year’s show all about?

This year’s show is called Teztify and is essentially me testifying against the assumptions that people have about me.

There are four main things I want to talk about and at a surface level those are the fact that I’m a person of colour, I’m Asian. I’m working class, so I talk about that. My politics are quite left-wing so what does that mean in today’s society? And I’m a person of faith in an increasingly secular world.

How long have you been working on this show for?

About six months now on and off I’ve definitely been thinking about but I’ve been taking breaks here and there for various other projects. But properly, I’d say I’ve been concentrating on it for over the last six weeks or so.

What’s your writing process?

I think of what I want the show to be about. I think about the narrative and what I want to say and then I look at existing material that I haven’t already used. Material that has been left over and not included in my previous two shows.

Of that material I then look at what fits the narrative and if there’s anything then I slot that in and get to writing.

How have the previews been going?

They’ve been up and down. I think I’ve made a good breakthrough in the last couple of weeks. So hopefully the next previews will be better. But that’s the preview process, you look at why something wasn’t great, what went wrong and you work on the show a bit more and you do it again. It gets better and basically it’s just a trial and error process.

Eventually by the tenth or twelfth preview things start to come together for me and then the last four or five previews are really just me ironing out the kinks.

How have you found filling the hour this year?

If anything I’m more experienced because last year I did the show over a 25 day period and took it on tour for a further thirty days so I learnt the weaknesses of the show. So I’m trying to avoid that with Teztify. So in some respects it’s easier because I’m more experienced in knowing how to write a good show but then it’s almost like it’s harder because I have less material that I know works to go on.

Have you got anyone helping you with your show this year?

I work with my managers, UTC Artist Management, who have a lot of experience and they’re very honest. They have a certain standard for me so if it drops and I’m not up to their standard they’ll let me know. There have been some good intense conversations with them over the last couple of weeks!

Most people will say “Yeah it’s fine.” rather than give you an honest critique which UTC don’t shy away from which is really really useful.

What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?

I just love hanging out with my mates for four weeks or whatever it is. It’s not a jolly because we’re all there to work but it’s almost like a big long Fresher’s Week. You work for a couple of hours a day and the rest of the time you’re having fun and exploring new shows.

I’ve been lucky that for the past few years I’ve had a show that’s been good so I’ve not had a time yet where I’ve had a show that’s not done well. So I think if that were to happen that would make it a very different experience. I think the experience goes as well as your show does.

What is it about Edinburgh Fringe in particular that makes so many performers want to perform there?

I think it’s the sheer size and scale of it. It’s literally the entire English speaking world and beyond that descends upon it. There’s such a variety of choice. The entire industry is there. Especially the UK industry but also other industries from around the world.

And then the length of it as well. It’s nearly a full month, night after night you get to perform.

Anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing?

Yeah lots! Dane Baptiste, Kae Kurd and Twayna are doing their debut shows so I’m looking forward to seeing them. Sophie Willan’s got a new show so I’m looking for to that.

There are a few people that I’m looking forward to that I try and catch every year and the beauty about being up there is that you see the posters and you see the people doing really really well who you might not have considered beforehand.

Outside of the Fringe what are you working on? You’ve done a fair bit of TV work recently such as The Last Leg...

I am. I’ve done a few bits and bobs throughout the years but it’s been quite nice doing Mock The Week and The Last Leg, I was really pleased with how they went so hopefully I’ll get to do more on those shows.

This is why I need to keep the momentum going, to continue to get these opportunities from September onwards. I would love to do regular panel show work and be the captain on my own show or something. I think that would be great. I’d love to get a sitcom on TV as well.

Nothing I can say for definite at the moment because it might not go anywhere, but I’m always in talks.

And finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?

Silly, smart and subversive fun.

Tez Ilyas: Teztify runs Saturday 5th August to Sunday 27th August at 8:30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Beside). Previews 2nd-4th August. No show Wednesday 16th August.

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