Akmal Saleh’s new comedy show, Akmal in It’s Not My Fault, is currently playing at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The open access festival is renowned for being a stepping stone for emerging artists, but comedy veteran Akmal is using it to test the waters for his upcoming book.
“The best way to know if something is funny or not is to try it out on stage, because I’m not a writer, I’m a performer,” he says.
He is still shocked at the fact that Random House approached him to write an autobiography.
“That came as a surprise to me because I thought maybe Nelson Mandela should be writing his autobiography, not me,” he says.
The humble jokester is one of the most in-demand Australian comedians – appearing in numerous television shows, commercials and a radio hosting gig that he quit last year – but still gets intimidated by bad reviews.
“No matter how long you’ve been doing it [comedy] or how much success you’ve had, if you get a bad review it hurts you, because it’s personal, and it’s public,” he says.
He says that even with 100 positive reviews, one bad comment is all it takes to test his confidence.
“They are attacking your core. Saying, you’re not worthy.”
It’s Not My Fault touches on topics from growing up in Egypt, to his family and his childhood. He encourages emerging artists to get involved with the Fringe Festival, saying that Fringe audiences are generous, unlike the more demanding audiences at comedy festivals and pubs.
“[Fringe] Audiences are small but very warm and giving, and very theatre minded”.
Saleh’s passion for comedy comes from his “selfishness” of wanting to be the only one on stage, and not having to share it with anyone else or rely on other people.
“It’s complete freedom on stage, and it’s powerful when it works well,” he says.
Akmal in It’s Not My Fault runs from September 30 to October 10 at the Lithuanian Club Ballroom at 44 Errol Street, North Melbourne.