This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Laughs for all as East meets West
It's a universal language, laughter. Just ask Raj Brahmbhatt, actor, writer, director and producer of the Gujarati Comedy Group (Leicester), writes Gemma Collins.
He has been performing at Leicester's comedy festival since 2004 with his community sketch club and has built up quite a following.
"About 700 people came to see the shows last year," he says, proudly.
"Life can be tough, so it's nice to create a bit of light relief for the people of Leicester."
The group speak Gujarati. But that doesn't make this an exclusive gig, says Raj.
"Sure we're doing this for the Asian community, but people who cannot speak the language will understand when something is funny by the way we move or our expression. Laughter is for all."
It also has something to do with the fact the Gujarati Comedy Group pride themselves on addressing the city's diverse community with funny stories and sketches based on everyday situations.
Such as cross-cultural marriages and elderly Indians refusing to speak English.
Raj came to England in 1990 and couldn't speak a word of English.He was a lawyer in India but had done extensive acting both on stage and screen.
He went to night school and learned English as a foreign language.
"I used to go in to Leicester Market and just listen to people chatting and shouting," he says.
"It's traditional thinking in modern times, and always with a message," explains Raj. "We get our inspiration from life."
The group all have day jobs, as accountants, teachers, business people and such like.
"It's East meets West, featuring a lot of comedy material and a ridiculous number of costume changes.
"We've been working on this set for about five months," says Raj.Like all good regular gigging comedians, you can expect lots of new material from the Gujarati Comedy Group.
"Our regulars demand it," he laughs.
"We won Best Newcomer Community Group at the festival in 2005. Who knows what the future holds?"
Info: The Gujarati Comedy Group perform on Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 4pm, in Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, Rothley Street, Leicester.