Hardeep Singh Kohli is back at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with another brand new hour, Alternative, Fact.
Since performing his first hour at the Fringe back in 2009, Hardeep is yet to take a year off and this year he’s getting all political, partly because it’s 2017 and partly because it’s a subject he’s really passionate about.
I recently caught up with Hardeep to find out more about Alternative, Fact. Here’s what he had to say…
You’ve been performing at the Fringe every year since 2009. What keeps you coming back?
It’s just fun for a start. You get to see a lot of friends you don’t see very much unless you go to Edinburgh.
But also, it’s the world’s biggest arts festival, and it’s in Scotland so I think it’s important that there are Scottish acts there. There are a lot of people from all over the world but I don’t think there are enough Scottish performers at the Fringe. That’s another reason for doing.
Can you ever see yourself not performing at the Fringe?
Less and less. I live in Glasgow now so it’s daft not to. It’s just across the way. There might be year where I don’t but it’s such a lovely thing to do in a beautiful city, with great food, excellent beer and just an hour away from Glasgow. What more could you ask for?
Do you still enjoy it now as much as you did back in 2009?
In many ways, I think I enjoy it more because I know the shape of it, I know where to go and I’ve made a lot of friends there. It’s a little bit like a drug. It’s very difficult to get off it. What would I do in August if I didn’t go? On holiday? What’s the point of that? I’d just be alone.
What’s this year’s show all about?
Politics. Understanding the state of play of the world and there’s no shortage of things to be laughing about in the political world. So I look at Scottish independence, Brexit and Donald Trump and try to understand how we are in the state we’re in – without it being a patronising lecture.
Why have you called the show Alternative, Fact?
I think for me, the point of really good comedy is how to find the truth through laughter and reflection.
Really good comedy is about the truth and what seems to have been really interesting in the world of politics in the last few years is how the truth has been undermined. We can all point at any number of things that simply weren’t true.
So there’s that and also the play on the notion of ‘Alternative comedy’.
How long have you been working on this year’s show for? And does it change quite regularly because of the current political landscape?
Exactly. It’s not “How long ago?” it’s “How short have I been working on the show?” because we were all ready to go and then Theresa May called a snap General Election so I stopped writing the show because we didn’t know what was happening.
So I started writing the show on June 7th, June 8th, and we still didn’t know what was happening because it was a hung parliament. Then with Trump, you keep thinking you’ll do a section on him and then he keeps doing something more ludicrous than he did before!
In a way that’s really helpful because this show is a personal observation of politics rather than what’s absolutely happening here and now. I’m quite obsessed with politics anyway and I have been from a young age so I’m still writing the show now.
Because you’re show passionate about politics, would you say this year’s show is the most true to you?
I think so. Of all the passions I’ve had, it’s the area I’ve got most expertise. I’m definitely better at this than I am falling in love.
How have the previews been going?
Very well. I had Clare Short MP sit on the front row of my first preview which was interesting. She’s a bit of a hero of mine so it was a bit weird.
You haave to preview otherwise it’s a bit like being naked onstage but then no matter how much you preview, until you do Edinburgh, you don’t really know how the show’s going to go down.
What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learnt throughout your many years at the Fringe?
Don’t have accommodation in Edinburgh because it’s so expensive!
There are so many things you learn but I suppose what you don’t see enough of in the Edinburgh setup is honesty and truth. A lot of people are doing a version of themselves thinking that they’ll be found by Radio 4 or make it onto the telly or whatever. And actually I think there’s too many people chasing that and not enough people just wanting to entertain a crowd.
The only people for me who matter are the punters. Nobody else for me matters. People who have paid hard earned money to come and see you. Perform for them. Don’t perform for anyone else. Don’t perform for a commissioner who you’ve given a free ticket to, or a critic who’s writing about you.
What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?
Just doing a different show in a different sort of space and it’ll be the first time I do Edinburgh not living there so that’s going to be interesting. I’m going to drink substantially less because I’m not going to be there at night.
I’m doing a lovely thing called Vintage Mobile Cinema. It’s a mobile cinema and colleagues are programming films and I’m programming one on the 22nd so I’m looking forward to that. I’m doing Sean Kelly from Storage Hunters’ chat show. I’m obsessed with that programme so I’m looking forward to that.
Who are you looking forward to seeing perform?
Tez Ilyas of course, Maddy Anholt who I worked with last year, she’s just hilarious. There are lots. There’s just no end of people to go and see, that’s the joy of it.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
A new BBC Radio 4 series has just been commissioned, comedy related. I’ve just finished recording the last Hardeep’s Sunday Lunch for Radio 4. I’ve got three columns a week which is lovely, writing a lot about food.
And I’m going to go over to America because there’s some interest over there in the political space so I’m going to have some meetings to see what that’s about!
Finally, how would you sum up this year’s show in just five words?
More than a hung parliament.
Hardeep Singh Kohli: Alternative, Fact runs from Friday 4th August to Sunday 27th August at 5:15pm at the Assembly George Square Gardens. Previews 2nd-3rd August. No show Monday 14th August. Book tickets here.