archive: a moment with akmal saleh

I’m currently the Entertainment Writer at CSU Bathurst’s student magazine Interpellator, which, until now, has meant me writing about celebrities and Hollywood – my favourite things. But luckily enough for me, today I got my first opportunity to interview someone – Australian comedian Akmal Saleh!

I’ve always found him hilarious so I naturally jumped at the chance to have a chat to him (over the phone of course) after someone from A-List Entertainment gave me his home phone number (yes, that’s right), I rang him and we had a quick chat about his upcoming show in Bathurst.

I wrote an article for Interpellator (Q&A style), but below you’ll get to read just the Q&A – enjoy!

So, you’ve got a new show called The Life of Akmal, what is it about, is it about your childhood?

Yeah…well no, it’s about lots of things, some of it is my childhood, some of it is about other people’s childhoods. It’s a collection of just things that have happened, that’s all I can tell you. Things happen to everybody, including me.

Do you find it hard to find the line between funny and offensive?

No, I think if it’s funny, it can’t be offensive. If people are laughing, you can’t be offended and laughing at the same time. So, for me, if the majority of people are laughing, then it’s no longer offensive. Yeah, you’re always going to upset someone, there’s always someone in there with certain experiences and certain prejudices that’s going to be upset by something you say, but that’s just the nature of comedy.

You’re touring a lot of regions in the central west, is there something that you like about visiting country towns over cities?

It’s a different thing, you know, when you go to a country town, it’s just a different feel. Usually you’re doing lots of shows in a row, so you’re going from one motel to another and it changes very quickly; as opposed to doing a big city venue, you might just do three nights in one big theatre and that’s a different thing. I don’t know if one is better than the other, it just depends on the night. I mean, I’ve had some very quiet nights that have been brilliant and I’ve had big nights that for some reason have gone a bit quiet. It varies, it depends on the chemistry of the night and how you’re feeling and the people who have come to see you, what’s going on in their lives.

What’s the scariest part of putting on a show for you personally?

There’s two things: one is not being funny, that scares me, (laughs) because people are expecting me to be funny, there’s the expectation because you’re a comedian, you’d want to be funny, otherwise you’re just a guy talking. And the fact that I’m scared one day, no one is going to show up and I could just do it to chairs, which I have done in the past, but I hope those days are past me. I like people to come, when it’s a full house it’s this great feel and your confidence grows.

What did you like about radio? (Akmal used to host a radio show on Nova “Get This”)

I liked that no one could see you. You didn’t have to wear pants, I didn’t want to (laughs). It’s such a different medium and it’s something that I learnt a lot; I learnt how to communicate in an entirely different medium. You can use your imagination, there’s lots more possibilities, I liked that. It’s a very intimate environment, because you’re not on stage, you’re actually in people’s cars, you’re in people’s bedrooms and homes; it has a lot more intimacy, you’re closer to people. But it wasn’t really my thing; I did it for two and a half years. In this business you’ve got to keep moving on and find different things, otherwise you get boring and people get bored with you. But it was fun, I met some very interesting people doing radio that I otherwise wouldn’t have met, people from different fields.

Would you like to do more television, you make quite regular appearances on Good News Week?

Yeah, I would like to do the “right” television; it’s not just a matter of being on television for being on television’s sake. You want to do something that you’re comfortable with and proud of that’s funny. Whatever you’re doing, you want it to be good. You certainly don’t want to be on television just for the sake of it, you want to be on for the right reasons. It’s like fame, people say “I want to be famous”, well why? Is it just for the sake of being famous or being famous for something good?

What’s next for you?

I’m going to Egypt next week to film a documentary about what happened, the uprising, the revolution. I was really inspired by the fact that it was started by young people; the average age of the activists was 23. In the face of absolute brutality and injustice, people were scared to protest and people were being tortured, and people were still going out and encouraging others to raise their voices. I’m going to try and put something together to relay the idea of anything is possible when people get together in great numbers and we can change things, even topple a 30-year dictatorship.

That sounds interesting.

Yeah, that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment. And next year I’ll be doing the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I do that every second year, gives me time to write new stuff, so I’m hoping I’ll have some new bits and a new show, possibly.

Why do you think people should come to your show?

Because I need money and I’d look stupid if they didn’t come. And I know where they all live, so if they don’t come, I’m going to send my cousins over to just talk some sense into them. No (laughs) I don’t know why you should come! If they don’t want to come they certainly shouldn’t, I don’t want to dictate to anybody. Only come if you feel like it and you find my humour entertaining. If you don’t like me, don’t come, it doesn’t make any sense. Go see Adam Hills or someone else that you may enjoy. (Laughs) I always find it difficult to answer that question, because I don’t know. I wouldn’t see me! I’ve seen my act before, millions of times, and I don’t find it all that funny. I wouldn’t pay to see me. What a rip off! I’d want my money back! Go see Carl Barron, he’s funny!

Originally published 19th July 2011

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