Charles Blake reviews Hardeep Singh Kohli at Assembly, Edinburgh
When thinking about political comedy in 2017, it’s hard to escape Donald Trump and the non-stop circus that is US politics. So I was slightly apprehensive that Hardeep Singh Kohli’s “Alternative, Fact” was going to be a series of cheap gags aimed Trump and co., which by now we’ve all heard a dozen times. But to his credit, Kohli’s show is far more expansive than the title might suggest. And in fact, Kohli’s best, and most impassioned material, is not about America at all, but rather Scotland, and it’s the veteran broadcaster’s incredible passion for his homeland which really drives the show. “Alternative, Fact” is a compelling comic celebration of the diversity that defines Scotland, and is a nationalist piece of standup, in the best sense of the word. Few know as much about diversity as Kohli: a Sikh who grew up in Glasgow, and after many successful years at the BBC decided to return to his hometown shortly after the independence referendum. Kohli is unashamedly a proud “Yes” campaigner, something which he advocates strongly in the show, but never in a way which feels dismissive of those who don’t share his opinions. And few, I suspect, could fail to be moved by his impassioned message of Scottish unity, against the sectarianism which Scotland still struggles with today. He tells a particularly entertaining anecdote about his experiences at school with a group of bullies, who have been raised to hate those on the other side of the protestant/catholic divide to themselves, but don’t quite know what to do when up against a Sikh. Strangely, despite the show not being packed full of jokes, it’s still hugely entertaining. Kohli has that rare gift of being able to tell a story about his life in such a way that the audience is on the edge of their seats. He’s charming, intelligent and simply great fun to be around.
For a show that offers both hilarious fun, and a deep insight into the Scottish psyche, be sure to see “Alternative, Fact”.