Random, improvised and hilarious: that’s Akmal at this year’s festival.

Every show I’ve seen so far at the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival has had, at some level, thematic coherence or a narrative arc. So Akmal’s show came as a bit of a surprise, because coherence of any sort is not the way he rolls – unless you count the regular use of four-letter words.

There’s plenty of audience engagement with punters in the front row, something that Akmal returns to throughout the show. Watching him draw an answer out of an unwilling audience member is funny in itself, and he does incredibly well turning limited material into comedy – usually at the audience member’s expense.

Most of Akmal’s show appears to be completely off-the-cuff. He reminds me of that friend we’ve all had at some stage who is the comic genius of the group and who likes to take the mickey, but apologises for it afterwards. Unlike those you might encounter over a beer at your local, Akmal’s cheek is both funny and endearing.

There are a few slow moments in Akmal’s performance, primarily when he gets too excited about a topic and rushes through it so fast that it’s hard to see where he’s going. But there’s always a laugh in there somewhere – it doesn’t need to be a punch line and could just as easily be found in his voice jumping up an octave, a well placed swear word, or some unexpected slapstick.

Akmal has a stage presence that turns the smallest of gestures (like pulling Tony Abbott ears) into comedy gold. This is the most relaxing show I’ve seen all festival – one where I’d advise you not to wonder where the laughs will come from, but just sit back, roll with it, and enjoy.

Akmal is on at the Athenaeum Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday at 9.45pm and Sunday at 8.45pm until April 22.

Suzannah Marshall Macbeth blogs over at equineocean.

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