Laugh Lines: Eshaan Akbar

The fast-rising stand-up tells us what makes him laugh, from wearing a Mankini to work, to doing the worst thing possible at his mum's funeral

Eshaan Akbar really wants Rishi Sunak to be the next Prime Minister. Not that he actually cares, but Akbar was the regular voice of Sunak on Spitting Image, so the extra work would come in handy. “I just hope there are no other Asian comedians in the running for the role,” he deadpans. “Very much like a Tory MP, I’m pulling up the ladder up behind me”.

Currently supporting Tez Ilyas on tour (“he does a meet and greet afterwards that takes about an hour… every so often someone asks me to take the picture, so that’s nice”), Akbar is heading out on his own first show, The Pretender, in Spring 2023. 

We caught up with Eshaan to find out what makes him laugh the most.

Eshaan Akbar | 2022 Tour | The Pretender | Promo video

When was the last time you laughed out loud? 

It was probably last night actually. Tez was doing his set in Blackburn and he always does a bit of crowd work. He spoke to this person in the audience and they said they worked in the NHS. Everyone started clapping and Tez goes, ‘No, wait a minute, let’s find out what they do first’. And guy just goes “CANCER”.  Like, slam, gotcha. It just made me laugh so loud that he said that word in that way. And then to Tez’s credit, he asked what kind of cancer, because some cancers are better than others. 

Who’s the funniest stand-up you’ve ever seen live? 

It’s between Kevin bridges and Kevin Hart. I was very lucky to see Kevin Hart in at a small show in London recently. Kevin is one of those interesting comedians who might not have the strongest bits, but his performance is second to nobody. And he’s got such an aura about him. I remember really, really laughing out loud watching him and just realising there’s a reason that he’s Kevin Hart. 

What’s the film that always makes you laugh? 

The first Anchorman and the first Borat. I’ve watched them both hundreds of times and they still make me laugh so much. 

I was so obsessed with Borat when it came out, and that film almost got me sacked from my job actually. I used to work in a very posh bank in Mayfair and the day Borat came out on DVD they were giving out free mankinis in the HMV on Oxford Street. So got this thing and put it on over my suit, walking back into the office because I thought it’d be funny. 

The head of the private bank, who basically spent 363 days of the year in Geneva, just happened to be in London on this one day, right, just as I walked in with this neon green mankini on. He immediately summoned me to his office upstairs, which was a place no one went unless they were getting a bonus or getting sacked. He asked me what was going on and initially I tried to pass the mankini off as a pair of braces. Then he asked me why I had it on over my suit and I had to come clean. He told me to take it off, but in my nervousness it sort of got stuck between my legs. So I was wrestling with this mankini in front of the head of the global private bank. I got a very very stern warning. 

What’s the best joke you’ve ever heard?

There’s a couple of routines that are really perfect. One is Bill Burr’s routine about domestic violence. Another one is from Andrew Schultz, an American comedian, who does an amazing joke about how women have timed the fight for feminism perfectly. There’s also a comedian called Rob Mulholland who’s got one of my favourite jokes I’ve ever heard about cultural appropriation. Most recently though, the joke I got most jealous of was from this really funny comedian called Mark Jennings. He did a brilliant joke about meeting this ultra-loyalist guy from Northern Ireland who decided to share his views about trans people. The Northern Irish dude said, ‘you know, if you’re physically a man, I don’t understand how you can identify as a woman…’. And Mark says, ‘well, Northern Ireland is physically a part of Ireland…’ 

What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read? 

Oh, there was this book I remember as a kid that was all about Subbuteo. I used to love it because it was the first time I ever came across puns. They made up all the names of the footballers and the star player on the Russian team was a guy called Anasti Chestykov. Alan Shearer was ‘Alan Lamb-Shearer’, or something. It used to really, really make me laugh every day, and it was the first time I came across any kind of comedy writing. 

What else made you laugh as kid? 

Anything slapstick, really. My first of comedy stand-up memory is probably Lee Evans. He used to do an impression of a crab walking sideways, which used to make me double over with laughter. His other one was a postman attempting a delivery. So that physicality made me laugh. And then I think adulthood, and life, got the better of me. Now I usually like it when someone does something that is grossly inappropriate.

What’s the thing you find funny that no one else does?

This is an odd answer, but I really find stupid racism funny. It just puts a huge smile on my face and I really can’t tell you why. Where I grew up in London it’s quite a BNP heavy area, so I’ve had instances when someone says something really racist to me and I’ve laughed because it’s just so ridiculous. It definitely deflates the situation because it takes the power away from what they’re trying to achieve, but I wish that was why I did it. Someone dropping the p-bomb on me, when I’m just walking down the road, just briefly makes me laugh because it’s just so absurd. It obviously isn’t funny at all, but to me, it’s just hilarious. 

What’s the most inappropriate thing you’ve found funny? 

There was nothing more inappropriate than my own mother’s funeral. She died very tragically, very suddenly, and my mom was my best friend. I found it very difficult to deal with her death. It was a Muslim funeral and, unbeknownst to me, part of the ceremony involved me and my brother climbing into the grave to bury her. The idea is that her body is lowered into our arms, and we lay her to rest. 

The thing is though, my brother and I were quite overweight. And the grave is quite narrow. So we were kind of wedged inside this grave, really struggling to manoeuvre this body. And then, because of how the positioning worked… There’s no way to put this lightly, I ended up tea-bagging my mom’s forehead. I was sad, but as I climbed out of the grave, I realised what had happened and I just burst out laughing. My brother asked what was going on and I told him. Very sweetly, he said, ‘Mom would have found that hilarious. You’re such an idiot’. 

Eshaan Akbar will be touring the UK with his first solo show, The Pretender, in spring 2023. Tickets are available here.