Egyptian born Aussie Akmal Saleh played to a packed house at the Forum Theatre as part of MICF 2015 with his popular blend of random thoughts on all things cultural and ordinary to side clips about family, drugs and investigating the lives of his spectators. Saleh hooked everyone in right from the start for a night of fun with witty improvised conversations with the front rows of the audience; including tattooed window tinter Daniel who got more than his fair share of hilarious attention and 17yo student Jackson which generated some great tech-gen jokes.
Expanding on his background, he amusingly reveals for Egyptians the only honoured profession is a doctor and much to his parent’s dismay he has not followed, they’d much prefer he would have stuck it out at Telstra! Growing up in Punchbowl seems to have well prepared him for the likes of being a touring comedian, yet even when he confesses his range of voice characterisations is limited it garners big chuckles. His recount of being mistaken for Carl Barron at a Bundaberg show is hilarious, and linked in nicely to jokes with a Rockhampton audience member about our Northern cousins. The great thing about Saleh is that nothing is off limits. In a world where political correctness has almost gone absurd, he doesn’t mind touching on seemingly taboo subjects like the Church, Abbott, and ISIS. His candour encourages the whole audience to see and laugh at the illogical and the ridiculous.
Saleh’s profile has raised quite considerably in recent times with appearances on tv shows like Great Debate, Thank God You’re Here and Spicks and Specks but he revealed two tv shows he wished he’d avoided. Saleh’s recently married status where both of them are hopeless with money leads into a funny account about a poor purchase in a hippie town where the temporary shed with all their belongings was overrun with bush rats and forced him to appear on Selling Homes Australia (houses that haven’t sold for over 8 months). This experience inadvertently haunts him even now all over Australia with queries of “have you sold you house yet?” (no, he hasn’t for those wondering!). The other show was Q&A on ABC where Saleh admits feeling out of his depth but certainly draws on it now for funny material. This invited an amusing segway of his inspirations for seemingly ludicrous options for other reality tv shows which he has pitched to networks without success.
There was a lull about 2/3 way through where Saleh asked the audience for questions to almost spur on some improvised material. It could have worked but no apt queries were forthcoming and it left the segment feeling a little flat and lazy to need this kind of padding. This aside, clever short yarns about finding a rusty egg beater in a forest as a cadet, the beauty and humour of a WA coastline comedy road trip with Joel Ozborn or having a fluro green Jesus on his wall doubling up as a bug catcher certainly got the crowd enthusiastic again.
Saleh’s experience on the road for the last 20 odd years with a focus on his culture and current issues is all just ‘silly nonsense’ as he refers to his brand of comedy constantly. What it does mean though is that audiences can always expect something fresh and topical. Certainly not for those easily offended he is contemporary, quick-witted and without doubt entertaining. Check him out, just don’t sit in the front row!