Comedy was never the plan. I had built a successful career across a few different sectors. I started off in Private Banking at Barclays Wealth, before moving to Local Government policy after the financial crash in 2008-09.
I was then headhunted to work in communications and speechwriting at HSBC, after a few stints at The Times, The Observer New Review, and others.
I started comedy as a hobby, in keeping with my tradition of having a creative hobby alongside my main job (I was a Bollywood dance choreographer for a time!).
Two months after starting comedy, the sudden passing of my mother – the person I was closest to in the entire world – changed everything. Really, that was the defining moment of my “career” – I hadn’t got going in comedy then.
But her passing, without a shadow of a doubt, set me on my path of exploring comedy as a career and, ultimately, offered a reprieve from grief.
Piccadilly Comedy Club New Comedian of the Year final, 2016
Another ‘new act’ competition final, that’s now defunct and the promoter still owes me £150. It was familiar territory as I’d played here on numerous occasions.
I’d go on to win, beating my now podcast partner, Darren Harriott. In the room was his agent who, a week later, met me in Canary Wharf, where I worked – and laid out his case for signing me as his client. We shook hands and I’ve been his client ever since.
Opening for Micky Flanagan at The Boat Show Comedy Club, 2016
A week after signing, my new agent gets me my first gig – opening for Micky Flanagan. I knew that he was famous, and a record-breaking comedian.
Everyone knows ‘Out Out’. When I walked “backstage” (effectively a booth on a boat) and saw him, it was then I realised that comedy was something I could and should take seriously.
At the time of writing, I’ve just opened for him twice at the Edinburgh Playhouse (7,000 people) and twice more at the Blackpool Opera house (5,600 people).
BBC New Comedian of the Year heats, Manchester
I had a 7am meeting with the US Ministry of Justice (MoJ) about the bank’s application of their guidance around fraud prevention measures. It was a bad meeting. I had a half-day, so started my drive to Manchester. Accidents and traffic made it a six-hour drive.
I urinated in three different water bottles en-route as there was no time to stop.
I arrived just in time for the start to be told I’m the first act on. I did well. But I didn’t qualify
I drove back, seven hours this time because of roadworks and accidents. I was at work at 6.30am the next day to help fix the fallout from the MoJ’s bollocking the day before.
Henley Festival, 2017
Everyone was in dinner suits. Russell Kane, the headliner, arrives late and says he needs to go on first as he needs to catch a flight to LA. Not the original plan, but who am I to refuse?
He puts in a masterful performance that culminates in a standing ovation. He introduces me, as half the crowd disappear.
I get my first heckle from an audience member ten minutes into my set – “Ah mate. This isn’t your fault”. I buy some foie gras (£30!), taste it, hate it, throw it in the bin on the way out, and drive home.
Golden Jester comedy competition, London Bridge, 2014
A gig two weeks after my mum suddenly passed away. I was heartbroken. I asked my dad and brother if they wanted to come along. It was all I could think to do and offer to them at a time of extreme pain.
It happened to be at the same venue my mum saw me do comedy her one and only time. I stumbled over my first few jokes of a five-minute set. I was sure I saw her in the crowd. I qualified for the final. No idea how, but it’s forever etched in my memory.
Akbar is preparing to embark on his first ever solo live tour with brand new show ‘The Pretender’ which kicks off in Bristol on the 23rd of February 2023 and concludes at London’s Leicester Square Theatre on the 28th April 2023. Tickets are on sale now and are available from eshaanakbar.com/tour