AHIR Shah’s last show in York may have been a duff night, but his return on January 18 definitely will be Duffer.

The philosophical, enquiring double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee is on a 34-date tour with his show of that name, playing Leeds University Union on January 17 and the Burning Duck Comedy Club at The Basement, City Screen, York, the following night.

“I gigged in York once before, years ago, and it went terribly,” he recalls. Oh dear, why? “Because, generally speaking, when you do stand-up comedy, you have to be funny...and I wasn’t.

“But I have a few years’ experience now and I’m sure it won’t happen again. One of the nice things about stand-up is that it is inherently in the room on that night and you want to feel you’re part of an event that won’t happen again, so everything has to be handled on its merits and de-merits.

“On any night, you end up being like a conductor with the audience are your orchestra, and there’ll be moments that are allegro and others that are fortissimo.”

Premiered at last summer’s Edinburgh Fringe, Duffer is “a show about death and what comes before, life and what comes after, and Bohemian Rhapsody”: a wide-ranging hour that mulls over Ahir’s paternal grandmother’s deportation from Britain to India when he was five; politics, family and religion; and his struggles with his mental health.

Grandmother first. “The circumstances of it was that she moved to the UK after she was widowed; she came over in 1991 for the family to be together but in the mid-Nineties there was a change at the Home Office and they ruled she should go back to India to live with one of my father Vikram’s estranged brothers ‘because he had money and the space’,” recalls Ahir.

“But the reason he had money is that he’d stolen it from her, so she ended up staying with an aunt and making it work, but it was more difficult than if she had been allowed to remain with us.

York Press:

Passport: Ahir Shah's Duffer show reflects on his grandmother's deportation to India in the mid-1990s

“She’d raised me like a second mother until I was five, and then I didn’t see her again until 2017, by when she was far too old to travel, so when I went to India that year to do some stand-up shows, I spent some time with my family at the end of the tour.”

Hence Duffer considers the importance of family. “For me, this is an opportunity to use stand-up to tell stories about people I I love,” says Ahir. “It seemed a good thing to do at the sad closure of our story, where I can express my feelings in a cathartic way.

“With this story, in the lead-up to the show, I kept thinking how I could make it funny, but then I thought, ‘no, you’re just going to have to trust me’.”

The same applies to his candour over his fluctuating mental health. “I’d never really thought of it as being something to be shied away from or to shout about from the rooftop. It was just, ‘this is the case’,” says Ahir. “It’s an on-going process where I had to adapt a bit when I’d gone off medication but I’ve since gone back on it.

“But as with all life, it’s all a work in progress and we find out what happens. With my comedy, it’s important to just do it and get it done, in a sense, For instance, I remember adding extra dates for Edinburgh last summer and I didn’t really clock on to it till I was at the Fringe when I felt tired all the time, and I realised it was the first time I’d done shows without the boost of Serotonin when I felt tired, but the best thing was to continue and go through with the shows.”

The sound of laughter is a natural boost too. “It’s always nice to get that first reaction, that first laugh, where you think, ‘oh yes, I can do this and I know this works’, but the excitement, the adrenaline, is important before you go on stage, rather than thinking, ‘oh, right, I’ve got to do a show’,” says Ahir.

“You want to be excited in that moment, and then when people laugh in the show it feels less lonely because they’re connecting with what you’re saying.”

After family, politics and mental health, the conversation turned to religion. "Part of what I discuss is 'religiosity' from the perspective of someone who's not religious but almost craves belief," says Ahir.

"With a lot of my family, and especially my grandfather, they have a certainty of what will eventually happen when they die. But for me, I feel you leave and the party continues, though I am sympathetic to their ways of thinking, even if it won't ever be what I believe."

Should you still be wondering where Bohemian Rhapsody fits into Duffer, you need to hear Ahir tell the tale himself next Friday at The Basement at 7.30pm. Tickets are on sale at burningduckcomedy.com.