Human Happiness: An Alien Concept?

Thu 1st – Sun 25th August 2013


Mona Damian

at 09:02 on 19th Aug 2013



Rahul Kohli definitely proves himself a master at engaging his audience and, if ever a weary individual escapes his net, has no trouble in dragging them back onto the tracks of his hilarious rollercoaster. Particularly the front row is splashed right in at the deep end when it came to being fully part of the fun.

The freshly graduated Kohli shares his personal opinions and insights on a whole plethora of topics. We are offered everything from rather intimate snapshots into his relationship with his father, his view on Geordie Shore, drone warfare and the evolution of the English language to a brief philosophical dialogue on the attractions of Hume’s teaching when attempting to reach the heights of pure human happiness. One has to admire the ease with which the comedian manages to constantly draw upon fresh material and slickly weaves this into a mesh of several core jokes, upon which he builds throughout the show’s duration. The material which he offers flourishes with his sheer enthusiasm and, on occasion, when the audience engagement does slip from his grasp, it is this that turns all attention back onto his philosophies on the meaning of happiness.

Though at times Kohli does appear to flounder a little, particularly when there is movement from one key topic to another, he soon recovers his way and continues to highlight the comedy that hides away in our own daily lives, and the world around us.

Juxtaposition of long-term issues, such as homophobia and racism, that pervade our society and the most recent stories to hit our news, provides a lot of fun as well as some more serious food for thought. It is in itself rather enlightening to see just how much comedy can be pulled out of reminders of the NSA scandal and whistle-blowing on the secret service.

For some fresh, funny and meticulously contemporary comedy this is the perfect production. One does not necessarily come out sharing the enlightenment Kohli claims to have reached. Perhaps this is because his final nuggets of wisdom are dropped to reveal the end, without quite the build-up and introduction it deserved. However, ‘Human Happiness: An Alien Concept’ has no problem at turning heads to make anyone want to stop the bus and come and watch.


Joshua Phillips

at 15:26 on 19th Aug 2013



‘Human Happiness’ is a show that aims high from the beginning; it promises an exploration of some of the most pressing issues facing modern Britain. All this is delivered, and more, by proud Geordie Rahul Kohli in a stand-up set that ranges from God to Geordie Shore and philosophy to flawless fake tan, by way of the use of drones in the War on Terror, existential loneliness, the nature of language, religion and Rahul’s penis.

As you might have guessed, Rahul’s set is a brainy affair, but that by no means makes it coldly cerebral or disengaged. Rather, the audience is presented with ideas that wouldn’t look out of place in (say) a linguistics textbook. Rahul segues from a story about getting mugged by a group of unintelligible kids to a discussion on the dictionary meaning of words as opposed to their meaning in conversation. To paraphrase Kohli, the joke’s on the audience, who have been tricked into listening to a lecture on sociolinguistics.

Other topics are made light of with a similar deftness of touch. Scottish independence is brought up: Kohli opposes it, not on political grounds, but because it reminds him of Destiny’s Child – “Scotland’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man”. Likewise, the Taliban’s misogyny makes him think that they have “mistaken the Qu’ran for”.

All of this is delivered with a wit, confidence and joyous energy that stops it from becoming simply a misanthropic diatribe, but rather something that is genuinely warm and funny. Even when Rahul describes being mugged, this warmth doesn’t go away.

For all of Rahul’s genuinely clever inventiveness, however, it is apparent that there isn’t really enough material to go around. Some jokes are repeated, and some parts of his material are stronger than others. Occasionally, Rahul has to revitalise a flagging audience through a bit of audience participation: picking mercilessly on someone sitting at the front of The Free Sisters’ bus: it feels more like a kind of desperate measure than something well thought through. Still, Human Happiness is by and large a witty and clever show with an ultimately edifying message at its end.


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