Kritharth Jha has been a regular in Cambridge comedy in the past yearLaura Wells

Kritarth Jha begins his set by addressing the elephant in the room: No, he’s not Irish. Though that wasn’t particularly a question I had in mind on the way to his show, Economics featuring obscure references, I did have other concerns. How was an economics student going to wring 45 minutes of comedy out of his subject? Were the jokes going to be better than the title of the show? Was this too great a challenge for his Edinburgh Fringe debut?

“Philosophy is like the undifferentiated stem cells of academia,” is a line you are unlikely to hear at any stand-up set, even amongst the thousands available for consumption at the Edinburgh Fringe. Jha at one point asks that his audience describe his show as a TED talk, rather than stand up, to their friends if they don’t find it funny.

There’s nothing shocking about bilateral trade agreements, but that doesn’t stop Jha crafting a sharp punchline from them

The challenge he’s chosen is a tough one, since it’s arguably more difficult to joke about economics than the more traditional “difficult” topics, like cancer or genocide. They have a significant shock value associated with them; there’s nothing shocking about bilateral trade agreements, but that doesn’t stop Jha crafting a sharp punchline from them. His explanations are lucid and elegant, and his jokes often extremely intelligent and insightful.

There is no doubt you leave more educated on the subject of world economics, and that’s an achievement in itself, though perhaps the show could be made slightly more accessible to a non-academic audience, or Jha could sacrifice some of his academic integrity (who hasn’t?) for a greater joke-rate in certain parts.

One effect of many Cambridge comedians performing exclusively to their peers is they get used to performing to very easy crowds – it's common knowledge the ADC theatre audience will laugh at absolutely anything, something the Cambridge Footlights have been taking advantage of for years. This is something that is commonplace with most of the Cambridge comedy shows I’ve seen at the Fringe, with acts evidently surprised at how much harder they have to work to earn their laughs. Jha knows this, however, but work hard he does.

Before you know it he’s explaining the parallels between Ellie Goulding and the average economist

His delivery is polished and confident, the fruits of an evidently dedicated rehearsal schedule (and good direction from Will Owen), and, importantly, he manages to maintain his strong brand of delivery throughout the 45 minutes – often a major challenge for Cambridge comedians making the jump from a 10 minute slot at a smoker to their own show. Occasionally he lapses into bouts of, “um... y’know”, when lines fall flat, but I imagine this is something that will be ironed out across his run.


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On his opening night, Jha has to contend with a comedian’s worst nightmare: a small audience. It’s a test of character, mental fortitude and self-belief but he passes it with flying colours.

The audiences will pick up, however, and that’s the least Jha deserves since he has some of the sharpest lines I've ever heard from a student comic.

His set sometimes wanders over to the subject of race and his Indian background (to fantastic effect), and his bit on potential extensions to the Call of Duty gaming franchise left me in stitches.

His natural affability coupled with his comfortable stage presence and cheery demeanour help put the audience at ease straight away, and before you know it he’s explaining the parallels between Ellie Goulding and the average economist.

Many people mistakenly think all comedians have to be intelligent. In reality, it’s only the good ones, like Jha, that need be.

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