Interview with Comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli

Impact Arts caught up with comedian and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli to talk comedy, Edinburgh and cooking ahead of the penultimate stop on his Hardeep Is Your Love tour tonight in Nottingham.

So Hardeep, you’ve been in broadcasting, in particular radio, for most of your career, why the switch to comedy?

I’ve always been really interested in comedy, I grew up watching a lot of comedy, and when you come from Glasgow it’s just such a funny city. I sort of delayed doing stand-up though because I hid behind the cooker for the first four years. I don’t think I’m a stand-up, I’m more of a story teller.

Is that not just a branch of comedy?

How I measure it is that I don’t get so many laughs as most stand-ups. Most will get 100 laughs and I’ll get 50 laughs but my laughs will be deeper and hopefully they’ll walk away and still be laughing in their heads. I think we live in a world of superficiality and actually what I want to do is create a commonality and honesty between people, a real dialogue. Share my secrets and stories in the hope that people will feel empowered to go and share theirs. There’s nothing wrong with wanting people to laugh at the superficial, but I want them to laugh with truth.

You played the Edinburgh Fringe last year, how has this tour been shaped by your time there?

It’s funny how the comedy thing works, in that you tour up to Edinburgh and then you take the momentum from Edinburgh and tour for the rest of autumn and do a new tour in the spring. It’s sort of three different shows in a sense. I wasn’t planning on doing a show last year at Edinburgh, it just happened that I was living there at the time. The biggest expense for a comic is to go to Edinburgh and because I was already there I thought fuck it I may as well do five shows.

It’s a 55 minute set at Edinburgh and then when you go on the road you sometimes have to do an hour and a half because people are paying for it. So then you extend the show and find new material and that material which already exists starts relating to each other in a different way. You start seeing the show in a different way and then you just remember things as you kind of open up along the way. All my stuff isn’t written in a sense, I’m not making it up, it’s real.

So it’s quite an evolutionary process the show takes then?

Yeah, for me no two shows are the same. The Nottingham crowd tonight should feel like they got this show and no one else will get the same show.

As you’ve been up in Edinburgh yourself, would you have any tips for students going up?

To be honest my advice is slightly counterintuitive. There’s a lot of comedy in the fringe, and that comedy will be on the road. It’s lovely going to see some comedy but there’s some radical theatre, some amazing dance, and just surprising little things. Take time to stop and talk to people and ask advice. I do think there’s a festival within a festival and often I’ve found students go to Edinburgh and they don’t actually see Edinburgh. If you’re there for seven days, go and visit different places around Edinburgh so then you understand the fringe and the festival a little bit more.

Do you watch many student productions when you’re at the Fringe?

I saw a couple last year but I’ve been in the industry for a while and I have mates who’ve got shows so I have to prioritise. I have this spin the bottle idea though, pick the ones you want to go and see but then spin the bottle for one because it will always surprise you. I went to see a student production a woman did and it sounded fantastic in the brochure; a women in a New York diner looking at love. There were eight people at the start and four walked out because it became a really highly sexual modern dance with her touching herself. The only problem I’ve got is that in a big turban I couldn’t walk out.

Your past three tours have had you cooking on stage, would you ever bring the cooking element back to the comedy?

Never say never. My rationale for leaving it out is because food is a great passion of mine. But I’m cooking professionally now so much, and I’m doing other food writing projects I didn’t want it to ever get to be a chore. I’m opening a new restaurant soon and I’d love to host a sort of chat show in the restaurant. The idea of talking over food and wine is a lovely idea and it’s kind of how I grew up. If you come to my house and all we talk about is food then it’s been a failed evening. You should talk about the chat, you’re going to get fed regardless.

Hardeep’s comedy show is on tonight at The Nottingham Playhouse. For more information and tickets please click here.

Emma Lawton

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