Scores of people packed the dimly lit auditorium at Birmingham’s The Drum Arts/Theatre Centre to witness the soaring success of yet another Big Comedy Night presented and organised by the BBC Asian Network. Having already toured Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival twice, London and Birmingham once, the tour once again stopped in Britain’s second city. Both acts and performers had to put on a performance of a lifetime if they were going to beat the success of previous events.

With a lineup that included Guz Khan, journalist Shaista Aziz, India’s Aditi Mittal and newcomer Tez Ilyas and hosted by the network’s own breakfast presenter Tommy Sandhu, there was something different about this show. 2015 actually marked 50 years of Asian programming on the BBC – a feat worth celebrating.

“From learning simple tasks such as how to switch on a light to re-creating the first ever Bollywood quiz show, the acts take the audience them on a personal journey through the incredible BBC archive in the home of BAME broadcasting, Birmingham,” the BBC said.

To say that there are many Asian stars, which originate from Birmingham who have contributed to Asian programming is something of an understatement. Birmingham is where it all began. This city has an unprecedented talent for being British and Desi – and a remarkable talent of balancing the two! The success of likes of Adil Ray, DJ Swami and Sonia Deol comes through because they cling on to the best of both worlds.

Guz Khan, Shaista Aziz, Aditi Mittal and Tez Ilyas put their own twist on scenes from memorable TV programmes and radio shows from the past five decades. I mean, the best of humour comes from being able to laugh at your own cultural stereotypes. Audiences were captivated into performances by legendary singer Shin from DCS and Apache Indian. The barrels of laughter from audiences showcased their enjoyment of the event especially at a very entertaining re-enactment of a Sholay scene by Tez and Guz – in English. One that will probably stay with me for some time.  

The show concluded with a tribute to Apache, programme reels highlighting his contribution on the BBC over the last couple of decades and of course a live rendition of Boom Shaka Laka from the man himself and students from the academy he has gone on to create. It was almost like he was passing the baton on to the next generation. A fitting tribute.