Max Mystel's comedy special: A treat for stand-up comedy lovers in Dhaka

Watching Max perform his 1-hour comedy special You Can’t Joke About That felt like eating dessert before dinner. The 500tk ticket to his show at Urbiruhu got you entry along with dinner provided by Amader Tong with the comedian himself. Which a member of the audience, Ishan A. Alavi described as “one of the best home-cooked meals of his life.”

What’s so special about Max?

But, of course, his audience generally has a penchant for hyperboles. The whole premise of his comedy is a crass exaggeration. With that said, his performance is no ordinary dessert, but some form of British, Bangla, Indian fusion Roshogolla-kulfi-custard-pie. It is a true slice of the traveller he has been all his life, spending almost a decade as a street performer in London, a few months in India after winning an open mic, overlaying his strict Bengali-Muslim ex-pat upbringing in Saudi.

Here’s what’s interesting about Max – if his jokes flop he doesn’t just sit there and take it. He comments on the floppiness of his jokes, improvs a self-deprecating meta-narrative about why it didn’t work, so it’s no wonder his 1-hour ran overtime by 20 minutes. That and the fact that his audience kept pushing for more; the turnout was humble.

The space was quite intimately small, which is exactly what made his special, special.

In the age of Netflix, we see recorded specials brimmed with a theatre full of people cordoned away from the stage, and that lack of distance in Max’s special, purely from setting and venue, encouraged us to ask for more. It is rare to find a comic who can hold your focus for over an hour, but it is even rarer to find one a few feet away from you. The host and feature act for his show were Atiq Sohail and Eftekhar Alam, respectively, themselves burgeoning their own following.

What’s next for Max?

Max is currently challenging himself to work on his second 1-hour act, to finish off the year, called Acquired Down Syndrome. Rumour has it that it might be hosted at 3rd Space and filmed. From a cinematic standpoint, it would be interesting to see something like this find its landing somewhere on the screen. Paving the way for recorded live-action comedy is an important step for Max Mystel because he has a niche following in a place like Dhaka, whilst performing his comedy in English, peppered with earnest and stark moments of Bangla and Hindi. While his comedy tastes like dessert, it is admittedly dark and not for everyone. The bitter taste of his third culture jokes belong to an audience as adventurously global as he is, and it is my hope that he someday finds it.