Annie Louey & Mohammed Magdi: Too Haram to Handle {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Comedy Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

At last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I absolutely adored Annie Louey’s show, ‘Gold’. Well, this year, Annie has returned but she’s brought along her partner and fellow comic, Mohammed Magdi for a brand-new show, ‘Too Haram to Handle’.

Hosted at the Melbourne Town Hall, the one-hour show is a double bill performance where both Annie and Mohammed each perform a 25 minute stand-up routine with a short ask-me-anything segment at the very end where they both open up to questions from the audience.

Not only is this a double bill show, but how often to you get the opportunity to experience one where they are in a relationship, with each other! I was both excited and curious to see how this played out!

Introducing ‘Too Haram to Handle’ is Annie Louey, and as she explained the format, there was a loud crash from behind the curtains, where Mohammed was hiding out. Annie’s quick wit kicked in and she proclaimed, “The show is going to be performed solo.”. The comedy was already hilarious and we had not even started!

First up was Mohammed Magdi, and I had no idea what a rollercoaster I was in for. Mohammed is Egyptian born but has been living in Hong Kong for over ten years. He has held many jobs in his lifetime and his show touches on the move to China and his life experiences along the way.

Opening with some fantastic crowd work, Mohammed seeks for some “fellow browns” in the audience. In a sort of mini competition with Annie to find who looks like them at each show. After mistaking one member as “looking Egyptian”, he finds one sitting next to them. The exchange was hilarious, and Mohammed continued to use his new Egyptian friend throughout the show. Not necessarily a requirement of his material, but it certainly helps to have an objective witness when discussing certain aspects of his culture.

Mohammed went on to discuss his first experience staying in Melbourne, quickly calling out how nothing works, especially the public transport, and how trains would magically turn into a bus half-way through their journey like a “shitty Transformer”. And after living in China for so long, this would never happen. Mohammed went on to discuss the casual or not-so-casual racism of Border Security. How much he loves names, especially his own and the joy he finds in self-assigned English names during his time as an English Professor in China.

Whilst Mohammed does have many hilarious stories about his life and professions he has had, he best part of Mohammed’s show would have to be the decision to move from Egypt to China and the passport that he tried to upgrade. Not just for a better citizenship status, but because the passport legit needs to be upgraded. Why? Well, you’ll just have to see the show to find out.

Annie Louey was up next and after receiving such an incredible response, how could she possibly follow her partner’s set and still smash it. Well, it was no surprised that Annie absolutely killed it.

Annie being a Chinese-Australian, in a long-distance relationship, with an Egyptian, living in Hong Kong, there is no shortage of material for her to use. Leaning into this, Annie discusses long-distance relationships and the perils of relying on technology to keep in touch. Joking how Melbourne to Canberra is not long-distance, an audience member in the front row stated that has a partner living in Mexico.

Annie’s crowd work is fantastic! She’s not afraid to get personal, not only regarding her relationship with Mohammed, but also getting into how they first met which resulted in a trip to the doctors. Not to worry, everything is fine, but I was impressed with how forthcoming she was about everything and her ability to turn something very personal into something very hilarious, a sight to behold. Annie also discusses what it was like opening up to her very traditional mother on how she was not only dating someone, but one that is not Asian, and one that is also a comedian.

There are so many funny moments in Annie’s set, such as the struggles in describing her profession to her extended family, staying in a karaoke hotel, and even resurfacing childhood trauma of how she, and the whole family, got headlice. Annie has a natural ability to take what would normally be a pretty mundane story and make it funny. But she, much like her partner, holds absolutely nothing back.

It takes a special breed of comedian to be so open and honest about their own life experiences and both Annie Louey and Mohammed Magdi are up there as some of the best. Both are extremely funny, and both delivered fantastic sets. However, whilst the question time at the end was nice to have both of them on stage, I would have liked to see them perform some stand-up material together. They each have their own little bits about each other in their material, but it would have been fantastic to have them able to respond in jest. And that isn’t really a criticism, it is more of a wish list for their next show that they hopefully develop together.

Annie Louey & Mohammed Magdi: Too Haram to Handle only has a few shows left at the 2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and due to demand, they added an extra show. With Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th of April at 7:50pm at the Melbourne Town – Hall Flag Room, and Sunday the 21st at 5:30pm at the Melbourne Town Hall – Cloak Room.

This is your last chance to see this show for a very long time!
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