I remember seeing Akmal Saleh live when I was still at uni about 25 years ago. It was awesome to watch someone who looked a bit like me (i.e. a man of middle-eastern appearance) up on stage, making everyone laugh, but doing it in a way that embraced Aussie culture and language better than many people who spoke English as their first language. I’ve been a huge fan ever since and he never disappoints.
In a few days Canberra will again get a chance to experience the comic hurricane that is Akmal Saleh when he plays his latest show at the Academy Comedy Club in Civic. The promos promise “Akmal returns with his funniest show ever in the history of comedy. Paramedics will be on call to transport audience members to the hospital as their sides split from laughter.” and “Please consult your doctor before seeing this show. Not recommended for people under the age of 18, or over the age of 18, or people with lawyers. NO REFUNDS.”
All this for only $30. That’s a crazy price! He’s worth much more and considering he is being supported by local Canberra comedy legends Emo Parsonson and Tom Gibson, this show will guarantee to sell out and there will be a lot of disappointed Akmal fans walking around Canberra.
If you see anyone looking depressed in Canberra after Tuesday, odds are they will be disappointed Akmal Saleh fan who missed out on tickets to this show. Anticipating this widespread disappointment across much of Canberra next week, the RiotACT Editors decided I should, as the token Leb contributor, make an effort to interview Akmal and find out more about this comic genius in our midst.
RiotACT: Murhubbah Akmal. How long have you been doing comedy now? It feels like a long time!
Akmal: It has been a long time. Over 20 years. But you know, it doesn’t feel that long because every show is different. I still love it.
RiotACT: I’ve noticed you’ve made a few random experiences at recent performances at various comedy venues around Canberra and there is a sense of excitement building around the new show. What’s in it? What’s it about? Does it have a theme?
Akmal: There’s not really a theme as I prefer to be more spontaneous and interact with the audience and talk about what’s in the news. There is a lot of new stuff, so if you’re an old fan you will hopefully enjoy the new material as well as some of my older stories. We’re also filming for a new DVD, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.
RiotACT: So this is your third DVD – can’t wait! The first two were great. But I wanted to ask you, what is the worst and best part of being a professional comedian?
Akmal: Well I’m a half-glass-full kind of guy. There are a lot of positives. As a comedian I can be indulgent and you do get a lot of time to yourself. I get to sleep in a lot. I went through about 100 different jobs when I was younger before I found one where I could sleep in a lot so that’s been great. Especially when it’s cold. I love it. You get to travel too and see different parts of Australia, which I like a lot.
RiotACT: In your show do you consider any topics off-limits?
Akmal: No not really. I think the topics themselves don’t matter as much as how you deal with them. How you approach it is important. I’ve done a few jokes about things like suicide bombers and terrorism which in themselves might not seem to be funny, unless you approach them in a funny way.
RiotACT: Speaking of hot topics, what’s your view on the postal ballot about marriage equality? Yes or no?
Akmal: It has to be yes. Without any question. The no argument is illogical. More people getting married will have no effect on any of the people opposed to it. But they have their blinkers on. They apply the same logic as they do in creationism. It just doesn’t make sense.
RiotACT: As a fellow Arab, do you think Australian attitudes to Arabs have improved over recent decades, or worsened?
Akmal: Well it’s been one step forward and two steps back . Hanson hasn’t helped. ISIS hasn’t helped. It’s great material for comedians like me though. There’s been a renaissance of Arab comedy.
RiotACT: Speaking of Arabs, I’ve heard you claim that Egyptians invented falafel. Got any more details on that?
Akmal: Um, er, not really. I’m sure it’s true though. You Lebs stole it from us!
RiotACT: Really?! OK. Who do you think makes the best hummus?
Akmal: Lebs definitely. But they do it pretty well in other Arab countries and I hear that it’s good in Israel too. I make good hummus!
RiotACT: That’s great. What’s your secret to good hummus?
Akmal: More chickpeas, less tahini, extra lemon juice and fresh garlic and virgin olive oil.
RiotACT: What do you like or dislike about Canberra?
Akmal: Canberra is great. It’s very pedestrian friendly. Last week I managed to walk around and see most of it in about 30 minutes. But it’s a bit cold in winter. I noticed when I was recently in Hobart, which is on an island closer to the Antarctic, that Canberra was colder. That’s too cold.
RiotACT: What do you like or dislike about media interviews?
Akmal: I don’t mind them. The ones that annoy me are where the interviewer isn’t interested in me or what I do. So this has been good!
So do yourself a favour Canberra, get a ticket (or two if you really love your partner) and enjoy Akmal (and Emo and Tom) next Tuesday night. You won’t regret it. See the bottom of this article for details about where to buy the tickets. Or that link I just gave you.
I mentioned that I was already a huge Akmal fan. His book is awesome and I was shocked to learn how quickly he wrote it and hope he writes another soon. Like many great comics, he is a master story-teller and sees the humour in everyday human tragedy and misery, often his own.
Another gem that I am proud of in my Akmal collection is a DVD of “You can’t stop the murders”. This is a little-known but very entertaining low-budget movie written by Akmal and his comedian mates and directed by then fellow comedian Anthony Mir. It’s a great cop drama where the lead cop, unheard of then and I believe never repeated, is an Arab with a perfect Aussie accent. When I first watched it I was blown away by the great story, deadpan acting and lack of ethnic stereotyping. If you can find it it’s well worth buying.
What: Akmal Saleh at the Academy Comedy Club
When: Tuesday 19 September, Doors open at 7:15pm – first in get the best seats.
Who else: Supports are local Canberra comedy legends Emo Parsonson and Tom Gibson.
Why: Because Tickets are only $30 and this event will sell out and you will regret it if you miss out.