Bilal Zafar has been charming Edinburgh audiences for a few years now with previous shows Cakes and Biscuit creating a buzz that saw him nominated for best Edinburgh newcomer in 2016 and Chortle Best Newcomer in the same year. In the sphere of online hatred being drummed up and manufactured in the form of bots on social media, Bilal has taken it upon himself to combat the vitriol with some bots of his own; love bots, which he credits the source of inspiration to Sarah Silverman’s response to an angry twitter profile by showing compassion to her abuser that showed the individual in question was in pain and lashing out and creating a happier outcome to all.
Guiding the audience into the trials and tribulations as to how bots function, Bilal enlisted the help of Rob Manual of B3TA fame to create soldiers of positivity, in the form of some classic British sitcom stars, to try turn the tides of hate on Twitter. It doesn’t prove to be the simplest of tasks when the Twitter police don’t disparage between those causing discord or those trying to bond.
Not a traditional stand-up but it’s hard to not get on board with Bilal Zafar, whose modesty and relaxed delivery make for a very affable and endearing comic. Lovebots harks back memories of the adventures Danny Wallace made his brand with. Even though it seemed Bilal was a bit flat on the night, it feels as though there’s a need for more energy from him as he does border on the placid now and again. On several occasions there seemed to be opportunities for a good joke to be told via the slides of his projector but agonisingly missed. Perhaps the biggest miss is the sense that the quest never quite feels fulfilled, the online exploits rendering as a quirky experiment rather than as a whimsical adventure. But not to discount the show too much, there’s still plenty to enjoy and plenty of jokes to have you cajoling in your seat to make you appreciate there are people like Bilal Zafar in this world.
★★★ (and a half)
* Reviewed on the 28th July at The Pleasance Theatre London