Assembly’s Studio Three is one of the more naked venues at the Fringe. What is normally 50 George Square Lecture Theatre is practically unchanged, with little glitz or set dressing. This frankness and undisguised appearance is shared by one of its comedian stars, Hardeep Singh Kohli, who returns to the Fringe this year following the success of his 2017 run with Alternative, Fact. You-topia is a stand up set that features Kohli speaking optimistically about how a better world is possible if the up-and-coming generation reject the injustice of today’s society. As with last year then, this is a frank set in which Kohli bares all about his political beliefs, while also making you laugh very hard.
Kohli’s one liners and anecdotes are incredibly funny. The humour is very localised to Scotland, which in such an international event like the Fringe actually feels very rare. It features such treats as Kohli breaking down and explaining the hierarchy of ice cream and presenting his own versions of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. He also quickly identifies members of the audience to keep referring back to and addressing, to the point where it sometimes feels like the show is being performed to them alone. As can be expected from a Scottish comic, Kohli has a field day if he finds out that you are from certain parts of the UK. If you are from Fife and are easily insulted, sit at the back.
Kohli does push the limits of what you can and can’t say, and indeed some of his jokes do fall a bit flat. Shock, rather than laughter, is the overwhelming response on more than one occasion. It is never malicious though and Kohli is very quick to realise when something has not went down as he expected, producing his own reaction to the crowd’s silence that always gets them laughing again.
In amongst all the furious chuckling though are some very profound and thought-provoking moments. Kohli says on several occasions that these are just his thoughts and does not expect them to be automatically accepted by everyone in the audience, but he clearly makes his stance very clear. His message is that utopia, that apparently unattainable goal, is more than achievable if we realise how unjust the world is today and how this injustice is rooted in many different spheres of life.
The basis for this is a number of personal stories from Kohli himself, which as well as bringing out a smile at various points can also be deeply moving. Kohli uses comedy to bring this message to his audience; a message that essentially screams a them that a utopia is a creation of human action, and is dependent on you forcing changes onto the society in which you live. It very much is a you-topia, born solely from human life. Kohli actually runs over his time slot trying to explain everything. Some could argue that his argument lacks the direction to be fitted into an hour, but equally possible is that an hour is simply not enough for him to say what needs to be said.
Hardeep Singh Kohli is riotously funny. A witty, passionate and talented comedy star whose show takes you on something of an emotional roller coaster. At times it is hard to remember that this is a comedy show, while at others it is impossible to forget. You-topia is an unpredictable, fascinating and satisfying show that leaves you laughing feverishly throughout and forces you to think long and hard for some time after it.
Hardeep Singh Kohli: You-topia
Assembly George Square Studios – Three (Venue 17)
Image: Stinglehammer via Wikimedia Commons