“I want everyone to give themselves a round of applause for coming out tonight”, he begins with, from behind closed doors; to which a startled, and ultimately lukewarm, reaction from the crowd followed. Taken aback, he reiterated; “Could everyone actually make some noise, otherwise it’s going to be an awkward as fuck walk onto the stage!” Laughter and applause ensued; anyone familiar with young Neel Kolhatkar’s work knows that although his humour is best served abrasively, his sincerity gives him a well-needed sense of relatability.
I was first introduced to Kolhatkar through another one of Australia’s most popular young comedians, Frenchy. With his brand of offensive, male ‘lifestyle’, humour, Frenchy has been labelled as being fairly misogynistic; a label that - in today’s society – naturally, has gained him a large, and devoted, male following. A frequent collaborator in many of his most popular videos, Kolhatkar has since been developing his own burgeoning career. His style of humour is similar in vein to that of his colleague, yet, it touches on subjects that are far more applicable to his background.
His show for the Comedy Festival, Truth Be Told, touches on the cornerstones of growing up in the 21st century as an ethnic Australian. It delves into his love for hip hop, his bewilderment at the metalcore, and indie, scene, and frequents controversial themes such as racism and, indeed, terrorism. With a comprehensive catalogue of practised accents to dip into – most of which he nails – he frequently reverts into multi-national dialogues with himself. Some of his best set-pieces stem from this effortless ability to seamlessly switch between accents, allowing for well-rehearsed, and unashamedly offensive, jokes.
But don’t let that fool you; he’s a charming lad. He had the audience in fits of laughter for the majority of the hour-long gig, frequently interacting with the crowd for chances to showcase his comic wit. Playing to the audience, he was especially harsh on his native Australia - his use of Aussie slang, and the impersonation of derogative Aussie behaviour, struck the right chord with many viewers.
Undoubtedly pandering to a niche audience, his profanity infused, no-holds-barred sense of humour is probably not for the general public, and definitely not for the children (hence the R16). But that’s no limitation; it instead allows him to impart his own charismatic style throughout the entire evening, never letting up, and never allowing any form of awkward silence to last any longer than he would want it to.
He remained in complete control of his own set – something that definitely can’t be said for all stand-up acts - and I’m sure he’s on his way to becoming a big name in Australian comedy. If you fancy Frenchy and his sense of humour; have a love for the art of the accent; are in the mood for a laugh with the lads (or lasses - this isn’t Frenchy, after all); or just simply detest Australians; Truth Be Told is guaranteed to be a gig worth attending.
Neel Kolhatkar - Truth Be Told
28th April - 2nd May
NZ International Comedy Festival