Jay Richardson

Review: Romesh Ranganathan, Irrational

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Irrational has been a long time coming in its bellyaching.

That’s because Romesh Ranganathan postponed this show to shoot his Sri Lankan travelogue Asian Provocateur for BBC Three. But also because he’s not succumbing to his growing middle-aged spread and parenting duties without a succession of grumbles and furious tirades.

Although his love-hate relationship with his three sons and maligned wife remains one of the most reliable causes of his distemper, he’s expanded more than his waistline. After Provocateur, it’s natural that his insensitive mother would become a more fully-rounded character in his stand-up. And she features here as the prime provoker of his cultural insecurity, dubbing him a “coconut”, estranged from his Sri Lankan heritage, essentially white on the inside.

That insecurity may be a weakness in his human interactions but it’s a boon for his comedy. Whereas in the past he’s been faced with road rage, in this show he’s threatened by the BNP. And in both cases, he’s left to reflect that the hatred he inspires might not always be race-related.

Elsewhere, his routines, initially at least, seem increasingly dictated by general observation as much as personal experience, such as his counter-intuitive defence of Starbucks’ tax-dodging or the apocalyptic harbinging of Gogglebox. Sooner or later though, all of society’s ills are channelled back to his own wounded self-absorption. No other comic seethingly spits the insult “prick!” at such a wide spread of deserving and not so-deserving targets.

Ranganathan’s great strength is that he makes his frustrations relatable even when he’s being deliberately divisive, as when he attacks Android phone owners. And that he appears more than an egotistical monster when bemoaning his family. That might seem constricting, as you mentally prepare yourself for his hatred of everything. But as with his recurring Starbucks situation, he doesn’t always choose the most obvious targets. He is, entertainingly and honestly, irrational.

There’s arguably too much crowd work at the top of his set, a bit too much preamble after the theatrical bluster of his support act Phil Jerrod. And the Q & A encore he contrived tonight proved a listless affair. But when he really builds to a head of steam, there’s few in the UK that can touch Ranganathan for entertaining misanthropy right now.

Date of live review: Sunday 13 March 2016 @ The Garage, Glasgow