You get a particular type of laughter, undergirded by gasps of joy and recognition, when a crowd hears its own lives joked about on stage as seldom joked about before. Part of the pleasure of watching this podcast turned show is the palpable gratitude and glee with which it’s received, by a (mainly girl, mainly brown) audience drinking up its gags about British-Asian life, about dating and “aunties”, about smelling like curry and Bend It Like Beckham. There’s sex too, and plenty of it, as Rubina Pabani and Poppy Jay recreate on stage the candid carnal chatter of their hit BBC Sounds show.
Add a song here, a dance there and a few sketches, and Mama Told Me Not to Come adds up to a likable confection, albeit one that saves its hardest hits for its final moments. Before then, on a DayGlo, teenage girl’s bedroom set, everything is upbeat. Pabani and Jay re-enact their first (self-administered) orgasms, the former on a space hopper. They conjure up a “Coconut Crimes Hotline” to report the flouting of racial boundaries. They chat excitedly about their youth, and how they came to terms – given precious little external help – with their sexuality and cultural identity.
Perhaps it’s not chat, exactly: the show can feel, now and then, disconcertingly poised between spontaneous podcast banter and something more scripted. But usually, Pabani and Jay’s lively rapport and obvious delight in one another’s company paper over those cracks. The sketches are, as sketches will be, hit and miss: the song and the dance are just OK; they have more joy with a skit that conflates south Asian stereotypes and sexual kinks.
But really the comedy is just a way to animate the conversation, which – alongside all the unselfconscious sexual candour – ranges forthrightly across colourism, sexism within their families and community, and their recent experiences of being trolled. The show doesn’t stint on gossipy good fun, but it’s got a solid emotional and political core – as the duo’s final flourish, reciting hard-to-write letters to their mums, makes affectingly clear. The mix of chit-chat, liberation sexology and the comedy of cultural identity, is a potent one.
At Soho theatre, London, until 22 October. Then touring until 19 November.