575. British Comedy: Paul Chowdhry

Understand a stand-up comedy routine by Paul Chowdhry, a British comedian of Indian descent. We’ll break down his comedy bit by bit, understand each line and learn some English in the process.


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Episode Introduction

Hello, how are you? (Luke rambles a bit…)

In a recent episode of this podcast, you heard me talking to Amber and Paul about experiences of doing comedy and both Paul and I mentioned a British comedian called Paul Chowdhry. I have mentioned him on the podcast several times before, and I’ve been meaning to do a whole episode about him for a while now. So here we are.

In this one we’re going to listen to the audio of some of Paul Chowdhry’s stand up. Let’s see if you can understand it, and if we can learn some English from it and also some things about English life and culture too.

Who is Paul Chowdhry?

He’s a British comedian, from London. He was born in the UK and is of Indian origin.

In terms of ethnic groups in England, white people of English origin are by far the majority ethnic group, but the next largest group is Indian.

I’ve chosen to talk about Paul Chowdhry in this episode because he’s a really funny comedian, and I talked about him with Amber & Paul on the podcast recently. He’s one of my favourite comedians.

Because Paul is of Indian origin, ethnicity, identity and accents are often topics in his comedy. I think really this is just because he’s always playing with social conventions about what we find acceptable or not acceptable, about the subtle tensions that exist between ethnic groups. Without getting too serious, he makes fun of everyone, including white English guys called Dave, his Indian parents or Indians who are fresh off the boat and living in England, Chinese waiters, African taxi drivers and all sorts. I like him because of the accents and impressions he does, because of how quick and brief in his delivery he is.

He’s just funny and that’s it. Certainly, England’s ethnic diversity is a theme that always comes up in his comedy and perhaps informs the audience’s reactions to him.

So, it might be necessary to give you some info regarding ethnic groups in Britain. Here are some stats, and this is from the UK’s most recent census, the 2011 census. The census is the country’s largest national survey and is very reliable and impartial as a source of information, so these figures are generally accurate.

What do you think? If you could imagine a pie chart with different segments for the different ethnicities in the UK, what would it look like? What do you think are the ethnic groups and their percentages?

Here are the figures, which by the way are controversial, not because of the numbers but because of the way the different groups are classified. For example, the categories “white” and “black” are not really ethnicities, are they? Anyway, here’s some information from the 2011 census.

I think this meant people registered as British citizens, and could include people born in the country or people who moved there and became citizens.

UK Population by Ethnicity

Source: UK Census/Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_the_United_Kingdom

Ethnic group Population (2011) Percentage of total population[17]
White or White British (including White Irish): 55,010,359 87.1
Asian or Asian British: Total 4,373,339 6.9
Asian or Asian British: Indian 1,451,862 2.3
Asian or Asian British: Pakistani 1,174,983 1.9
Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi 451,529 0.7
Asian or Asian British: Chinese 433,150 0.7
Asian or Asian British: Other Asian 861,815 1.4
Black or Black British: Total 1,904,684 3.0
Mixed or Multiple: Total 1,250,229 2.0
Other Ethnic Group: Total 580,374 0.9
Gypsy/Traveller/Irish Traveller: 63,193 0.1
Total 63,182,178 100

By the way, most of the non-white ethnic groups are concentrated in the cities, particularly London, which is by far the most racially or ethnically diverse place in the UK.

London has had a diverse population for centuries, but most of the Indian and Caribbean families moved there in the immediate postwar period.

People like Paul Chowdhry, who are basically around my age would have grown up in the UK, but with Indian parents.

Anyway, back to Paul Chowdhry.

It’s quite interesting that Paul Chowdhry’s audiences are often quite diverse. He appeals to everyone – white people, Asians, Afro-Caribbeans and so on. In his audience he often picks out the groups of people of different origins and it’s funny the way he makes fun of them one after the other.

No need to go further into all that stuff. It’s just a bit of context. It doesn’t all have to be about ethnicity. Like I said, I mainly wanted to do this episode because I just find him to be really funny.

So, let’s just listen to some of Paul’s material and see if you can understand it and if we can learn some English from it.

This is the audio from a YouTube video of Paul Chowdhry’s appearance on a TV show called Live at the Apollo. This is the BBC’s big stand up comedy show, which is filmed at The Hammersmith Apollo, which is just 10 minutes down the road from where I used to live in London. It’s a huge venue and they have big comedy shows there and they also do music concerts. All the great bands that you love, all the great British rock bands from the last few decades. They’ve all done shows at the Hammersmith Apollo. It’s a very famous venue. The Who, Elton John, Queen, Black Sabbath, David Bowie’s last concert as Ziggy Stardust was there – just all of the great bands. and also all the big comedians that we have.

Anyway, this is the audio from Paul Chowdhry, Live at the Apollo.

This routine is full of slang, rude language, accents and jokes about ethnic identity. That’s what you can expect.

I’m not sure what you’re going to think of think of this, as ever, because this could easily be considered offensive (because he’s making fun of different ethnic groups to an extent), but my instinct tells me this is just funny and so I’m just going to go with it. But certainly a lot of the laughs come from the fact that this kind of thing, the sorts of things he’s saying are borderline unacceptable, but in some way he gets away with it because it’s coming from an Indian guy. Although the things he’s saying might be considered unacceptable or politically incorrect if they came out of the mouth of a white guy. For some reason because it’s coming from an Indian guy that kind of makes it ok. If it was a white guy up there making fun of ethnic minorities, that would be considered extremely old fashioned and in very bad taste, but Paul has got the pass, the card, because he is Indian, so he can do it.

He can even get away with doing impressions of Africans and Chinese people, which I would definitely not get away with in front of an English audience.

Anyway, enough from me. Let’s get into it.

Let’s go.


Paul Chowdhry Live a the Apollo (2012)

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