Interview with Eshaan Akbar

Eshaan Akbar takes some time to talk to Voice about the show, inspirations, and to give advice to young people.

Interview with Eshaan Akbar

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I am Eshaan Akbar, a stand-up comedian taking his debut one-hour show "Not For Prophet" to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017.

How would you describe your show?

It's an hour of funny and thoughtful stand-up about working out exactly who I am given that I have a Labourite dad and Thatcherite mum, was a poor kid in a private school and made the journey from devout Muslim to not.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

It's a showcase of some of the best comedy talent in the world and, in its 70th year, a great opportunity for me to add to the cultural fabric of the UK.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

It appeals to an impressively wide array of artists and performers across a range of genres - and it's less muddy and more hygienic than most.

Do you think the Fringe has changed over the years? If so, how? Are these changes positive or negative?

This is only my second full year at the fringe so I'll find out - I expect the walks will be just as uphill as it was last year though.

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

Other than a desperate desire to be loved and bring joy to hundreds and thousands? I admire the power of comedy to observe the most ridiculous facets of our society - from inane human behaviour to the crazy political landscape we find ourselves in.

If you didn't have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

Waiting for a promotion that would never have come in my job at the bank. Or writing the restructure that restructured me out of my own position - again.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Ambassador to one of the British Overseas Territories - that is as cushy as it comes isn't it? Or host of The Daily Show. Or the new Parkinson.

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

Attempting to draw a sunflower in school - in Bangladesh, where I spent one term - and failing miserably much to the chagrin of my mother

Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events?

I don't feel any pressure to be a social commentator - I want to be funny first. But the things I find funny tend to be politics, society and finance. Essentially, I find shortcomings and stupidity of some of the (supposedly) brightest people in our society endlessly entertaining.

Equally, do you think there has been a shift in public sentiment that has affected your work?

In the short time I've been doing comedy (three years), this is definitely true. Audiences (and some comedians!) seem to forget that jokes and opinions aren't synonymous. I've had complaints about offensiveness from across the political, religious and socio-economic spectrum - and they have to be reminded that these are jokes and contrarian by design. And given that a lot of my material centres on my religious journey, you can well imagine, Islam is very much "in vogue" and "dangerous".

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

What on earth is happening?

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

I'd love to work with Richard Pryor - a truly transformative comedian at a time of heightened societal tension. He united all races when it was as fraught as ever. I'd love to work with Aramando Ianucci as well - a hugely impressive writer with incisive precision and wit in his view of the political machinations in the UK and US.

Why would a performer opt to do either a ticketed event or participate in the free fringe? What are the benefits and limitations of both?

Ticketed - this is mainly psychological. A lot of audiences see a well-regarded venue and, as passing trade, will be more inclined to buy a ticket. I recently got interrupted by an audience member who, upon hearing I was at the Gilded Balloon said, "Oh...that's legit!"

Free fringe - this has more of "fringe event" vibe. There's an underground quality and although you don't know what you'll get at the paid venues, it seems more like a lottery at the free fringe!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Don't. Your show is taking up audience for my show. As long as yours if after 4pm, I'm cool with it. If you have guest spots, take me and allow me to flyer for my show. And if you're doing that, get on top of your admin early on - where you're staying, how much flyerers will cost you etc. Budget then work, work, work on your show! A good show supported by word of mouth is priceless!

When and where can people see your show?

You can see my show at 2.45pm at (the legit!) Gilded Balloon, Turret.

And where can people find, follow and like you online?

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook - all eshaanakbar. You can't miss me!

My website is

Eshaan Akbar: Not for Prophet is performing at the Gilded Balloon at 14:45 on 2nd – 27th August. For tickets and more information visit the Ed Fringe website.


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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