tue 21/05/2024

Romesh Ranganathan, Touring | reviews, news & interviews

Romesh Ranganathan, Touring

Romesh Ranganathan, Touring

Slick stand-up from avowed curmudgeon

Grumpy dad and ungrateful son: Romesh Ranganathan

Romesh Ranganathan has had an astonishing rise in comedy. The former teacher did his first full-length show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, having made his debut there in 2010 in the newcomer competition, So You Think You're Funny? Now he's a television panel-show regular, and the second series of his travelogue Asian Provocateur is currently on the BBC.

His success, he deadpans, is because, with his Sri Lankan heritage and a lazy eye, he ticks not one but two diversity boxes.

It's down to talent, of course, and Ranganathan, a great student of comedy, knows what appeals. In truth his shtick has changed little from that 2010 debut – grumpy dad (material about his sons' shortcomings), ungrateful son (as now evidenced in Asian Provocateur, where he appears with his mother, Shanthi) and a studied disdain for others (as seen during his lacklustre one-season run on The Apprentice: You're Fired!). It's a formula that has found an audience, and he's sticking to it.

This show, Irrational (which I saw at Eventim Apollo in London), was supposed to debut at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, but filming for Asian Provocateur meant that it had to be cancelled and this tour delayed. It is, he says, about how happy he is, even though he spends 90 minutes complaining about life, his family and politics. There's some pedestrian stuff about giving silly names to staff when ordering a drink in Starbucks, iPhone versus Android phone users, and having to share a table with strangers at Wagamama restaurants. All these are default material for lazy comics, but Ranganathan does up come up with some classy lines. Referring to Wagamama, he says: “That's worse facilities than at my house.”

The stage arrogance is leavened by some pleasingly self-knowing comedy; he tells us he's too unattractive to cheat on his wife and that recently, after catching sight of himself in the bathroom mirror one morning, he apologised to her. He also talks about having to spend quality time with the kids and taking them to Disneyland Paris.

But the material isn't entirely domestic; he has political stuff too, and his material on tweeting Donald Trump, Ukip, Isis, airport security and white rappers is insightful and welcome. Yet, delivered in the same world-weary and almost monotone way, it's rather lost among the everyday observations when it merits a more enthusiastic response.

His relentless curmudgeonliness can be a little wearing over the course of a 90-minute show and – even allowing for an adopted stage persona – I cringe when he calls his sons “little pricks” or “bastards”. But the audience liked it, and Ranganathan is undoubtedly a slick performer.    

  • Romesh Ranganathan is touring until 8 December

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