Kaleed Khalafalla: Devious

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Khaleed Khalafalla doesn’t just play the race card, he’s got the whole deck. The Egyptian-Australian comic might admit that he’s ‘not black enough to make black jokes’... but a little thing like that isn’t going to stop him.

His own race offers a certain amount of protection from gags others might not get away with, while his charm, charisma and impish smile provide a whole lot more. He is a cheeky natural on stage, so even though his material is patchy, it’s done with a very forgiving twinkle.

He doesn’t have enough to fill his debut hour; silos of material are spaced with plenty of crowd work to set up the next prepared routine. Though when audience reluctance lends him down a blind alley, he engagingly gets us to imagine it had gone to plan. There’s a sense that this banter is mere time-filling, but he’s still good at it... it’s rare that a comic so new – he was a Raw finalist just two years ago - can play the room so instinctively.

We go through all the stereotypes that he’s very good at mimicking, especially certain type of machismo Lebanese guy, a caricature he repeatedly refers to. Even if they are hardly envelope-pushing or especially politically-correct, it fits in with Khalafalla’s ‘equal-opportunities offender’ persona: he’s an arsehole but he knows it. Whenever he’s snarky and passive-aggressive, he follows with a faux-innocent grin that says ‘what?’

There’s a youthful energy to his act, most evident when he tackles an Usher impression, and (as another comic pointed out to me) his ethnicity brings a more diverse crowd than the twin demographics of young hipsters and mainstream surburbanites that normally comprise festival audiences. Khalafalla’s selling point is that his vibrant, easily accessible attitude will appeal to those groups too.

The material might need developing to provide a more distinctive standpoint, but Khalafalla ticks all the right boxes – and has an appealing performing style that will see him go far.

Review date: 4 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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