Review of comedy and poetry show by ALOK

The show is simply called ALOK

About the event

ALOK (they/them) is an internationally acclaimed writer, performer and public speaker. This is their new comedy and poetry show.

A mixed-media artist, ALOK’s work explores themes of trauma, belonging and the human condition. They are also the author of Femme in Public (2017), Beyond the Gender Binary (2020) and Your Wound/My Garden (2021), and have been honoured as one of HuffPo’s Culture Shifters and NBC’s Pride 50.

‘Moves seamlessly among poetry, comedy, fashion and writing.’
New York Times

From the blurb on the Soho Theatre website

Thank you to the tweep who alerted me to this in late May. Luckily I jumped straight on it and was able to secure a ticket before the Saturday night sold out. There were just three tickets left. Expensive too, at £28 a pop, which just show that trans-themed culture is a niche of the wealthy. Alok had a sold out run. I have previously blogged about him here, if you missed it, one of my first pieces after I started this website.

The audience

There were a notable number of trans-identified females in the audience who had turned up to fangirl Alok, notable also that many were in couples, cosplaying as gay men.  Also gay men.  After the show he did a signing of his book Beyond the Gender Binary.  Many dutifully lined up in the street after the show had finished, well past 11pm, to have their books signed and a chance to speak with him one-on-one.  

Alok appears

Alok came onto the stage eight minutes late wearing a rah-rah dress which wouldn’t look out of place on Widow Twankey, co-ordinated with a long sleeve T-shirt and accessorised with snazzy make up, dangly earrings, and a big fuck off cheapo-looking silver ring.  As per usual for Alok he looked to have three days worth of stubble.  There’s nothing wrong with stubble of course, but officially Alok identifies as non-binary and the wanton display of a burgeoning thick black beard just isn’t androgynous.  Unofficially Alok is just a camp gay man.  He even admits himself he cross-dresses.

The jokes

It’s my sad duty to inform you that Alok was actually very entertaining and a competent comedian, easily passing the six laugh test.  In fact, if one didn’t know who Alok was, you might be forgiven for thinking it a very clever send up of the post-modern gender bollocks that Alok actually suffers from.  (Or does he? More on that later.)  

At beginning I did feel my toes curling slightly, for example, one of his opening lines was that he told the doctor who announced his sex at birth to ‘read the room’. Once he was more into it though he perfectly conveyed the absurdity of the current culture, for example, his grandfather had been interned in a refugee camp, whereas Alok’s struggle now was more like wearing fake eyelashes so long they looked like pubic hair.  Or taking the piss out of meditation teachers who earn a living telling other people how to breathe and he observed that you can ‘lie your way into healing’.  

He used the conceit of making the ‘cisgender’ heterosexual people in the room the minority who needed to be spoken about in a culturally sensitive way. None of this is particularly original of course (it’s the whole of Julian Clary’s career in fact), but like they say, it’s the way you tell ‘em, and Alok happens to have pretty good timing as it turns out.  Some in the audience relished this ribbing slightly too much though, bordering on something mildly unpleasant at times.  

Of course it was explicitly political, a trans activist comedy show definitely.  Appeals were made for people to leave trans people alone, respect pronouns, allow men into women’s bathrooms, the rubbishing of biological sex, you name it, all covered.  Yet still funny.  I know, I’m annoyed as you are.  There’s no way he could do this show to an audience which wasn’t broadly onside to his politics though.   

A study showed that British people had a hormonal affinity for the colour beige.  

Alok’s a funny guy, no really

Out of place poetry

So not being able to say anything particularly nasty about the comedy, I can be legitimately scathing about the inclusion of the self-indulgent poetry, which was totally jarring. Each of the three poems lasted several minutes, which is a ridiculously long time to listen to distinctly mediocre poetry at the best of times.  It’s one thing being experimental, but there are some conventions in comedy that you don’t break, not if there isn’t a punchline at the end.  He might find the drunker audiences at the Edinburgh Festival will be less forgiving of these ‘poetical’ inserts.  He closed the show on one of these awful po-ems. 

That’s why you destroy us, because transgender people remind you that heaven is a practice not a promise, that it is possible to experience divinity, not here in the pulpits, but in the people, and to be free it is easier to destroy me than to reckon with the fact that you mistake anguish as reality.  […] I love these men more than they are capable of hating me.  A revelation.  I love these men more than they are capable of hating themselves.  

From sermon at the end – NB the universal use of ‘men’ – so very offensive to the 100+ genders which now exist, doncha think?


So back to the enigma that is Alok.  Having seen him speak a couple of times now I was fairly convinced that he believes the philosophy he espouses, indeed on my last blog I used the word unhinged, but now I see more clearly that it is just an act.  An act by a consummate actor.  Alok is due to appear in a new Netflix movie Absolute Dominion, so is in fact a professional.  And that’s what I believe about him now. He obviously doesn’t really think he is non binary (his double entendres leave you with no doubt about that), or that anyone can be, but he does like having sellout comedy tours courtesy of the Pronoun Pound, so I suppose the cynicism is well placed.   

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