Creating a balance between personal and self-deprecating humour is an art form in and of itself. It requires a comic to have a keen understanding of themselves and their lives and a willingness to explore the humour that they discover within them. Aurie Styla toured Green in 2022, which included his Edinburgh Fringe debut at The Pleasance and multiple four and five-star reviews. With Greener?, which is less of a follow-up show and more of a ‘check-in’, Styla captures something quite special and meaningful in his uniquely observed comedy.
Selfishly, for me, the Downstairs at Soho Theatre is the perfect place to see someone like Styla. Yes, I know I should support comics playing larger venues, but Styla’s style of show is close, personable, and a little intimate, making The Downstairs ideal.
Greener? is not a follow-up to Green but a ‘check-in’ for both him and his audience on his progress, and perhaps even ours. Though I shiver at the thought of anyone talking about lockdown or the pandemic, Styla’s contextualising of this period seems fresh and illustrates just how, even now, the remnants of the pandemic and lockdown will have much longer-term affects on many of us. There is a range of topics Styla covers, from Joe Wicks and the Queen’s death to how the pandemic impacted his relationship and "cartoon" nature of the UK government; his Boris Johnson impression is eerily spot on. These moments have pace to them and never seem rushed, and with the show being an ‘in-between show’ connecting with some things that happened in 2022 and 2023 seems apt.
When Styla starts talking about himself, beginning with the origins of his name, the personal nature of his material really shines. All along, from the moment he comes on to the stage, Styla incorporates his audience, and this adds greatly to the experience and the joy that’s being created. Greener? gives his mum the spotlight, someone who encouraged him to travel, which, in his post-lockdown life, he seems to have really taken on.
Comedy doesn’t always have to be endless punchlines; some of the best comedy I’ve seen has been a mix of humour and real, lived experiences that aims to connect with audiences rather than create a distance. Styla doesn’t always take himself too seriously, as illustrated with a joke about King Charles’s fingers, but he never wants to cross the line into true vulgarity. And it is because of this that he’s created a perfect balance of storytelling and comedy, and as an audience, you feel safe, which allows us to forge a better connection with him.
Of all the personal stories Styla shares, it is his passion for travel and being fluent in German that really carries weight. It is here that you begin to understand the complexity of Styla’s lived experiences and his comedy. He’s a black British man who loves to ski and perform in places that are not typical hotspots for black British men. As he’s describing the experience of being accosted by a British man at a ski resort, I couldn't help but feel my heart sink. Skiing is his passion and one that’s been with him for a lot of his life, and yet a black man on the slopes is an affront to who exactly? It’s hard to explain what that feeling is like as a minority in a place where others think you don’t belong. It can, and sometimes does, make you want to never experience that feeling again, so you avoid doing it. But keeping on this theme of upbeat positivity, Styla doesn’t bemoan this experience; he doesn’t let it impact his love and joy for doing something and being somewhere others may think he doesn’t belong. As he talks about these experiences, you can’t help but feel inspired and empowered by the positive outlook that he exudes.
One of the highlights of the night included an audience member called Sam, who, at only 23, unwittingly became the sub-star of the show. The quick-flowing ribbing from Styla was unrelenting, hilarious, but never cruel, and it brilliantly showcased Styla's positive vibe and ability to include his audience in his show and build a connection with us. Perhaps one of his best lines to Sam was "You probably don’t know that Beyonce was in a group!” which brought the house down.
"And as Greener? goes on, we get to understand that Styla has a radical sense of self that has perhaps become accentuated through the political, social, and cultural moments these past three years."
Styla is not what you might expect as a comedian, and it is clear that he has honed his craft well over his 10 years on the comedy scene. Somewhat nonchalantly, Styla lets his audience know that he’s done regular shows at the Altitude Festival in the Austrian Alps as well as in California, so we know he is a circuit and well-seasoned comic. Throughout Greener? you grow to understand him a little deeper, especially his relationship with his mother, someone who really installed in him the idea of being somewhat unexpected. And as Greener? goes on, we get to understand that Styla has a radical sense of self that has perhaps become accentuated through the political, social, and cultural moments these past three years. Styla seems to have stopped and taken a moment to become self-reflective, to ‘check in’ on himself, and to find ways to live (and understand) his life in a different way. This has, in my opinion, really allowed Styla to find a voice that is unique, funny, honest, and genuinely uplifting.
In an age of instant fame, it’s inspiring to see how his 10-year career as a comic has not made Aurie Styla disillusioned, hardened, or bitter. Styla doesn’t just find humour in his everyday life; he’s found a way of talking about the greater importance of self-discovery, finding your inner, better self, and not being afraid to talk about your feelings.
His bit about Disney’s Cars will stay with you forever.