No subject is off limits for accomplished Australian comedian Akmal Saleh.
“Comedy is tragedy plus time … it’s not the subject matter that’s offensive, it’s what you’re saying about it. It’s in the context,” Akmal says.
But are some things such as a certain US President beyond satire?
“The Trump thing is so extreme, bizarre and funny. The joke has been done. The original is funnier than anything a comedian can do.
“The more extreme something is, the more challenging it is for the comedian.”
Akmal is currently touring his new show, ‘Open for Renovations’, nationally and looking forward to bringing it to Frankston Arts Centre next month. He is relishing the opportunity to be in front of live audiences again.
Initially, his 2020 schedule was “super busy” until the lockdowns crippled the performing arts and put an end to live shows.
“It was shaping up to be a busy year and then suddenly it went to nothing,” he recalls.
Akmal jokes that the discovery of tools, particularly a sander, led to both endless household projects and the preservation of his sanity, adding: “It was more destruction. I had to keep myself busy because I was going crazy!”
The lack of touring and live performance also enabled Akmal to become reacquainted with his wife: “Because I was home all the time it was like a real marriage! She had to put up with me.”
On a serious note, Akmal says the time at home and off stage deepened his value of stand-up comedy: “It gave me an appreciation of what I do and missing it a lot – getting up and performing every night. It was in my system for so long and I was deprived of it
“I got a new appreciation for what I do. My material comes from being on stage. My style is loose.”
Akmal says he starts with a “vague idea” on the first night and then tweaks and refines it over successive shows. He describes ‘Open for Renovations’ as a new show touching on conspiracy theories, being married during lockdown and views on religion in Australia.
The title of the show is a light hearted reference to how Akmal is open to advice about being a “better person” – physically, spiritually and psychologically – particularly given his younger days when he wouldn’t listen to anyone.
For Akmal, the energy and interaction with live audiences is a gift.
“Hopefully this period will pass for everybody – it’s been a tough time. It (performing live) is a big gift.”
He speaks of the great feeling after coming off stage following a performance, adding: “It’s satisfying. It’s like a drug and a love affair.”
Akmal likens the loss of performing to the end of an affair and its return to a sense of exuberance, saying: “After your lover’s gone, you are empty and feeling less complete … (now with the resumption of live performance) it’s starting to come back.”
See ‘Open for Renovations’ at Frankston Arts Centre on Friday 5 February at 8pm. Tickets $49.90 (with $1.50 per ticket booking for online bookings). For more information and bookings, visit www.thefac.com.au