Raul's Were Made to Be Broken

Wed 6th – Sun 24th August 2014


Freya Judd

at 09:38 on 15th Aug 2014



If there is an abundance of one kind of act around at Edinburgh, it is this: young male comedians giving their stand-up routines their best shot, courtesy of the Free Fringe. Like a few of the other comedians I have seen, Raul Kohli seems pretty nice. Nervous, but essentially a nice guy. I really want to like his set. Sadly, I can’t.

Original comedy is hard to perform, and even harder to write when you’re sitting straight faced staring at your laptop in your mum’s kitchen. Many of the same topics rear their head again and again this week on the stand-up circuit. Jokes about Scottish Independence are naturally very popular (they never quite seem like jokes, more like gently panicked assertions of ‘I get why you want independence but PLEASE don’t do it’), tributes to the sadly-deceased Robin Williams are frequent, but above all, I have seen an astounding number of young male comedians assert that they are feminists. Feminism, it seems, is cool.

Like the others, Raul Kohli ticks all of the above boxes. It is the last that puzzles me: for all that I support proclaiming your feminism, it isn’t ever particularly funny. For the three quarters of the room who did not raise their hands when asked if they were feminists, the quips fell flat. For me, stating the obvious about Malala Yousafzai doesn’t really amount to comedy. If you’re going to talk about gender equality specifically in a stand-up routine, the writing needs to be truly unique, rather than blindingly obvious. And please, when talking about R Kelly’s transgender son, use male pronouns.

Apart from the feminism, much of Raul’s jokes were based on life as a person of Indian descent in an overwhelmingly white area. Here, whilst talking about his own family and personal experiences, Kohli really came into his own. His accents and impressions were razor sharp, and I enjoyed the way he talked about his family.

Ultimately, though, any comedy review of mine is going to be skewed towards my sense of humour, and I suspect that mine and Raul’s doesn’t quite match up. I cracked a smile throughout his set, but I never really laughed. The rest of the room, however, was in uproar for most of the forty minutes, and when consulted afterwards many audience members said that they really enjoyed the performance.

I hope Kohli continues on with being a stand-up, because I think he’s genuinely funny. I think that he needs time to find his voice, but maybe I need time to find my sense of humour. Either way, the show is free and worth a watch if you find yourself drifting aimlessly around three.


Ciaran Stordy

at 10:35 on 15th Aug 2014



This stand-up comedian glowed with promise. Raul Kohli was charming at the door of his venue, leaflets in hand, cajoling passersby. Before beginning his performance in the back room of a Victoria Street bar he worried about the place making sure everybody was comfortable. I thought, this guy is meticulous, he’s sure to produce some funny, well-constructed, nuanced stuff. What eventually came was quite different.

Yes, very different. He began to present us with an acutely offensive concoction of toilet humour and polemic dressed up as comedy. He concerned himself almost exclusively with incendiary topics – paedophilia, Scottish nationalism, suicide bombing – in the hope that his audience would burst into red hot laughter. His delivery was crass, utterly unveiled and, besides, there was nothing funny to be gleaned from much if not all of his material. Where’s the humour in sexual abuse and mass-murder?

Admittedly some parts of his set made me laugh; it was not completely boring. My favourite gag involved Glasgow and it was made in good taste. These moments were scant, however, and superficial. The rest of the time I was embarrassed and angered by what I heard.

There was a point in his show that distinguished itself as the most effectual of all. Unfortunately it was not comedic but testimonial. After telling of the racial prejudice that he faced during his upbringing in Newcastle he progressed into an incisive commentary on the nature of racism. Racists are fuelled by hatred born of misfortune in life, he told us, and the more misfortune they experience the more irrational their hatred becomes. I thought that this insight was rather noble of him, especially after telling us of his personal encounters with racism.

I sensed an uncertainty in Kohli as he went through his set, which hinted at its newness. He reflected out loud on the quality of his jokes on multiple occasions as if he were trying them out for the first time. This hesitation could bode well for Kohli, if his set is in an unfinished stage there is hope for it.


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