We spoke with Akmal about his upcoming tour, the importance of conspiracy theorists and his thoughts on the return of Pauline Hanson.
TBS: What do you think is the key factor in you ending up where you are today career-wise?
Akmal: I failed at everything else I attempted. When I left school I tried everything, and comedy is probably the only thing I think I can do, and my only talent I think. I became obsessed by it when I was young, and I think you do well at something when you completely let it take over your life. So I think I just persevered with it. I started in Sydney when it was really rough, and it was just pubs and clubs – and a lot of people come in and have a few hard, tough nights and they just drop out – I couldn’t see any other solution, it was my only option.
TBS: Who do you think is the most intriguing public figure to watch at the moment?
Akmal: There’s a man called David Icke, I find him very intriguing, you should look him up. He’s all about conspiracies, 9/11 and all that stuff. I find him fascinating, because he used to be a footballer player, then something happened and from a football player, he became a conspiracy theorist.
TBS: What’s the worst way for someone trying to get your attention?
Akmal: The worst way? Inappropriate, badly-timed heckling. You know, I kind of work off the audience, it’s how I write a lot of my material, bouncing off the audience. And it’s a good thing. But you know, when someone’s drunk and being destructive and they just yell out at the worst moment, just before you get to the punchline (laughs) and they just destroy all your material and there’s nothing you can do to come back to it… If there’s an intelligent audience, with smart banter, you can do it all night, but you really can’t come back to (Akmal impersonates an indeschiperble bogan whine). There’s no comeback for that.
TBS: What would be the thing that you would offer 15-year-old Akmal?
Akmal: I’d say read more and stop wasting time. I never looked back, but I’d say educate yourself a lot better than you did, I think that’s a big thing; more knowledge makes you better, whatever you do. When you get older, look after your health a bit more and don’t worry about getting bald, because no one will care. I used to have great hair at 16. I started losing it and I was really upset because I was like 20. I’d tell the 20-year-old me don’t worry about it, it doesn’t make any difference to anything.
When I left school I tried everything, and comedy is probably the only thing I think I can do, my only talent. A lot of people have a few tough nights and just drop out – I couldn’t see any other solution, it was my only option.
TBS: What’s your most annoying trait?
Akmal: I interrupt people. I don’t know what it is but you know when you are in a group of people, they’re all telling stories and I just stop listening and think, shut up, get on with your stories so I can get to mine, and so I don’t listen to theirs, so when they ask me a question about it, I say sorry, I’m not listening. So, I’m a bit self-centred in that way. So that’s one of them.
TBS: What’s something that you will always regift?
Akmal: I will tell you a true story. For my 21st, my uncle Mourad gave me a comb as a gift, (incredulous) it was a comb. And he wasn’t being funny either, just a bit weird and stingy. He gave me a comb, and now that I’ve lost my hair, it’s a bit ironic. I couldn’t even keep it even if I wanted to. I don’t think I will ever give anything back that was given to me in good faith, I’ll just throw it in the bin. When we got married, we got heaps of presents that we just didn’t need. There was just unopened boxes of blenders; we even lost track of who gave us what, but we did discover that you can go back to David Jones and return them. So every week we went back and we bought jeans and stuff that we needed. Years later the people ask “How’s the electric blanket we gave you?” It was great, thank you very much, we turned them into CD’s.
TBS: What is your favourite lame quote or cliché?
Akmal: I’ll give you one that doesn’t make sense to me. “Live in the moment”. It depends on really what the moment is; if you’re being tortured, for example. My worst cliché would be “Money does not make you happy”, because I have experienced money, and it’s made me happy. You can buy love, it’s not that expensive.
TBS: What can people expect from you on your upcoming tour?
Akmal: Well, they can expect I will be there for sure, and I’m punctual. It’s really hard because I never know what to expect, I’ve never been a well-rehearsed comedian that delivers the routine from beginning to end, so I kind of keep it really loose, just to keep it interesting. It’s just the style that I’ve evolved for many years, so hopefully lots of fun and laughter, but I can’t really promise that.
TBS: Last question and it’s a bit off the normal questions we normally do, but I just wanted to ask you about Pauline Hanson. You were doing standup the first time she did her thing…is she any different, or have we not changed?
Akmal: No, I think we’ve changed. But she hasn’t. I think she’s just a person who must have list of what people are fearing at the moment. She started at Indigenous people, then it became the Asians, now it’s the Muslims. If we feared Swedish people, she’d say “We’ve been swarmed by Swedes.” Whatever is convenient, which I think… I don’t think she just loves being famous; I don’t think she has any values or understands anything about the world. She believes that Australia should be white. It’s too late for that! The thing is, I don’t think she has thought through a lot of stuff that she’s putting forward – she’s saying “Ban all Muslims”, so we can be safe. Which would make us the first country to ban 1.6 Billion people. I think she doesn’t believe in anything. There is lots of people like that, people with interchangeable beliefs. Good on ya, Pauline. It’s the same with Donald Trump. They all have the same mentality as a church, or a mosque. Mind control by using whatever people are insecure about, and then exaggerating it. You can’t lose.
Akmal is on Tour from 1st-29th October. You can check out the dates and locations of his shows here.