Akmal, in T-shirt and jeans, walks onto the bare stage at the Royalty Theatre with no preamble, no warning, setting the scene for an hour of banter that regularly cuts to the core.
There can’t be many comedians who are known by just their first name. Who knew that his surname is Saleh? And to think Akmal originally called himself Peter (to conceal his Wog roots so he could get gigs in places like RSL clubs). That was years ago. Now Akmal is a household one-word name and invited onto TV shows (some appearances he clearly regrets).
Akmal surely wrote the lecture notes for “Dealing with Hecklers 101”. He doesn’t just deal with hecklers, he encourages them; he beckons them. His eyes gleam as much as his trademark bald head when a hapless heckler chooses to give him some lip. Dave (who kept coming back for more) and Sean were the main victims on Saturday night, providing the comedian with bounteous material.
Verbally fighting-fit and nimble with it, his sharp wit and quick repartee take him into potentially offensive territory, but his warm persona and self-deprecating comments have the audience happily joining him on the journey.
Akmal has his own take on subjects dear to stand-up comedians, such as politics, religion and racism. All three seem to blend together with two particular topics in his repertoire: terrorism (a topic with which Akmal has been anointed, being Arab and that, albeit a Christian one) and Tony (a topic he gleefully embraces).
It was a hot night on Saturday, and the air-con in the theatre struggled to cope – but not Akmal. If you like him on the telly, you’ll love him live (and definitely kicking).
Akmal is performing at the Royalty Theatre again on February 20-21 and 27-27, and March 6-7 and 13-14.
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