Neel Kolhatkar is an Australian comedian/actor/entertainer. From making short videos impersonating stereotypes in his bedroom, to touring Australia and the UK Neel has made a name for himself and aspires to achieve even more. Sahar Mourad caught up with Neel to find out about his ambitions and any advice he can give aspiring comedians.
Sahar: What inspired you to start a career in comedy?
Neel: I was acting since I was very young and often my characters were quite comical so the next natural step was to try my hand at stand-up. It wasn’t until I was about 18/19 when I really began to appreciate stand-up as an art form and begin to develop my own voice on stage. As for more of the character acting I have been doing that since I can remember, I suppose I just wanted to entertain people and decided to get up on stage in a lot of plays in my younger days and haven’t looked back since.
Sahar: How do you come up with your jokes?
Neel: It varies. I’m not the sort of comedian who can sit down and write I have to be inspired somehow. Often something will happen or I’ll meet a specific type of person or people that I find rather interesting and a joke develops from there.
Sahar: What is one thing you hope to achieve as a comedian?
Neel: I would love to reach a wide audience. Be able to do shows all across the world much like Russell Peters. There are huge emerging comedy markets in South East Asia and the Middle East. The dream is to be touring globally one day. I would also love to get into acting, much like Kevin Hart, be able to transition from live comedy to film and television so well.
Sahar: Who is your favourite comedian?
Neel: Chris Rock. Undeniably my favourite comedian since I was a teenager. His exuberance and energy on stage is second to none and the way he hones in on the point he wants to get across is simply masterful. I loved him as a teenager, I watch him today and have an even greater appreciation of his genius as a stand-up. The way he can craft a bit and on top of that appeal to such a wide audience is in my opinion second to none.
Sahar: Who is one comedian you one day hope to collaborate with?
Neel: I’d love to collab online with some of the American YouTubers: Jimmy Tatro, Filthy Frank and the viners like Logan Paul or King Bach – that would be incredible.
Sahar: You play a lot of stereotypes, how do you deal with the possibility of controversy arising from your impersonation of different ethnicities?
Neel: I don’t look into it too much. Most people understand the way I convey certain cultural groups are all in the name of humour and though they are based in truth, they aren’t meant to be taken too seriously. There is a huge amount of irony in what I do and the levels of sarcasm run deep. Sure, some people may be offended but I am not trying to appeal to every single person on the planet – that is simply impossible. I feel like I’ve found the right line and am always learning about an audience’s reaction and how I can better engage different groups of people without pushing the boundaries or their sensibilities too far.
Sahar: What advice do you have for someone aspiring a career in comedy?
Neel: A big thing I would say is you have to be online now. Online is in my opinion the future of comedy and it’s the perfect platform to showcase exactly what you are capable of. Don’t limit yourself to just one medium either, try everything. Live, film, TV, radio – do it all and see what works best for you. Also be patient. You’re not going to have a viral hit immediately it’s about honing in on what will grab people’s attention in a cluttered online digital landscape and then harnessing that.
Sahar: What can we expect from you in the near future?
Neel: I will continue to perform stand-up across Australia and the UK and try to post some more higher quality productions online with short films, web series etc. I will also be working closely with some media outlets to try and break into some of the more traditional media platforms and otherwise I will continue to work hard and simply try and make everyone laugh.