Akmal brings his show 'Open For Renovations' to Adelaide Fringe 2019.
With both temperatures and fundamentalism on the rise, times are undeniably tough. For Akmal Saleh, though, YouTube and the nightly news make 2019 the perfect climate for comedy.
Since beginning his comedy career in the early 1990s, Akmal has excelled across a range of mediums: Stand-up, TV, cinema and radio.
After almost 30 years of success and laughs, though, Akmal will be in a reflective mood in his new show ‘Open For Renovations’, where he will play The Garden of Unearthly Delights for the first time. At 54, Akmal says he is ready to contemplate his existence and his legacy.
“I’m older now, I’m at an age where I want to be a better person, find out who I am and why I’m here, what it’s all about," Akmal says.
“I want to leave something behind, I want to leave something positive. I want people to remember me. Like Jesus, I’d like to be like Jesus. I’d like to develop a skill set like walking on water, you know, turning water into wine? I’d get invited to more parties, that’s for sure.”
For Akmal, who was raised in a conservative religious family in Egypt, before migrating to Australia when he was 11, speaking out against the rising tide of racial hatred in his adopted homeland is one way that he can make a difference.
“When I was young, it was a bad thing to be a Nazi. Now it’s not too bad. You can be a Nazi. You can say you’re a Nazi like you can say you’re a vegan, people accept it," he says.
“All these troubles are very good for comedy. When everything’s going well and everyone’s getting on, there’s no comedy in that. There’s only comedy in conflict and tension and fear-mongering. It gives me an opportunity to say things too that I wouldn’t normally.”
While in times like these politics and ethnicity inevitably form a part of his routine, Akmal is careful to ensure that his routine is balanced. “I also talk about my dick a lot as well, so I mix it up.
“It’s about making the people who come to see me laugh as hard as they can for as long as they can, and the subject matter’s not as important, it’s secondary.”
In the digital and social media age, attracting audiences to a comedy show has never been easier, Akmal says.
“At the Melbourne Comedy Festival (last year), ten per cent of the acts had never been on stage before, because their audience predominately came from YouTube. That was impossible when I was starting out. When I was starting out, you had to do 20 years of hard work and these guys just did it from their lounge room.”
YouTube is a mixed blessing for comedians, though, he says. “People will film you secretly and you can’t do anything about it and then put it on YouTube. It might be a tough night or a night that you’re trying new material or whatever and people will see that and you have no control.”
“It just makes you work harder.”
Akmal Tour 2019
Sat 9 Feb - Cronulla RSL (Sydney) 15 Feb-17 Mar - Adelaide Fringe Thu 21 Mar - Inveresk Tramsheds (Launceston) Sat 23 Mar - Canberra Theatre Sun 24 Mar - HOTA (Gold Coast) Fri 5 Apr & 12-13 Apr - Melbourne International Comedy Festival Sat 6 Apr - Geelong Performing Arts Centre 3-4 May - Sydney Comedy Festival Sat 11 May - Kalamunda Performing Arts Centre