Fringe Interview Quickies: Neel Kolhatkar

Interviewed by: Luke Hickey

Neel Kolhatkar is a multi-talented rising star in comedy, making waves both locally and overseas. His viral YouTube release, Modern Educayshun, clocked almost a million views within 48 hours of his release. Today, we have a brief chat to him in light of his return to the stage medium for Fringe World.

Q1. You’re returning to Perth this year with a brand new show (Neel Before Me), appearing as part of Fringe World. Obviously, you’ve built up quite a following through social media, YouTube videos etc., but there’ll no doubt be some newcomers seeing your act for the first time, would you be able to describe what a Neel Kolhatkar live show is like?

Neel Kolhatkar live show is an hour of my stand-up comedy. It’s high energy, lively, incorporates a lot of impressions and doesn’t shy away from raunchy or polarising topics. A smorgasbord of young, fresh, ripe humour for all to feast upon.

Q2. On that note, you’re part of a growing group of comedians (Alex Williamson, Nicole Arbor) who are utilising social media to achieve success (insert DJ Khaled snapchat here). Do you see Youtube comedians as a kind of a new-wave of comedy?

Another one. I suppose so, internet comedians are not restricted by advertisers, directors, the opinions of a few or anyone other than themselves really. That means we can truly say what we want to say which I believe is always a recipe for good comedy. So I think we’re on the right track and are only going to grow in popularity. Eventually all comedians will have to have some form of online presence.

Q3. Who are your influences in comedy? Do you pull much from old-school types (Carlin, Pryor, Murphy etc.) or from more recent performers? Is there anyone in Australia we should be checking out more?

I do love Eddie Murphy’s stand-up. Currently I’m a huge fan of Bill Burr but my all time favourite would have to be Chris Rock. His style, energy, and scathing commentary has been a huge influence for me and I see him as a true legend of the game. Loved him from since I was a teenager.

Q4. In Australia I feel like there’s been a bit of a turning point in comedy in recent years, where performers are moving away from the good-ol’ aussie larrikin stage persona and towards more of a discussion of serious issues. Concepts like race, gender, politics etc. are getting more frequently used as comedy topics by guys like Aamer Rahman, Jim Jefferies etc. whereas in the past it seemed like aus comedians were limited to doing some clownish “Hey Hey It’s Saturday”-type drivel. As an Australian comedian, where do you feel like you fit in to this? Do you like to push the envelope?

Haha. I think guys like Jefferies and Aamer have been able to find their own audiences without mainstream media and thus have the luxury of being able to be more opinionated and polarising. People who are versed in comedy don’t look too fondly upon the ole larrikin persona but you still see it everywhere. I doubt it will ever disappear and don’t get me wrong I love a good ole Aussie joke but I think really great comedy will always transcend. I definitely see myself as a part of that newer breed, though I maintain a very broad fanbase I try to be as subversive as possible with my commentary – I do love to push ye olde envelope and get stuck into the taboo topics.

Q5. There’s been growing talk about how outrage-culture and people being overly PC are censoring comedy by making certain subjects taboo to talk about. I would imagine you would have something to say about this, is this what the future holds? Or is it more people not understanding comedy and getting angry about it?

Historically, I can see why there was a need for political correctness in comedy but I am of the firm belief that in recent years people do fail to understand things and refuse to delve deeper into what they are hearing or seeing. No comedian, no matter how callous and basic their subject matter may seem has an absence of deeper thought behind what they do and that’s why I am such a fan of Bill Burr. Yes, the PC outrage culture exists but if you are truly great at what you do and leave no stone unturned in your take on a particular topic people have no choice but to appreciate your work. Some people online seem to have this egomaniacal self-righteousness in trying to force everyone to be on par with their own personal tastes and sensibilities. Of course not everything is going to appeal to you. Some jokes others may find funny you may find in poor taste. Well the simple solution is, don’t see that particular comedian. If it really is an offensive joke the masses will judge accordingly with their wallets and eyeballs and you have no right to destroy what other people enjoy simply because it is not to your personal liking. The next few years will be interesting, already we are seeing a backlash to outrage culture and not just in the world of comedy. Personally I am of the belief that for the most part censoring and outrage culture has an incredibly adverse effect on comedy.