Nish Kumar interview
The fantastic Nish Kumar brought his completely brilliant 2014 show, Rumination on the Nature of Subjectivity to Manchester last week. We caught up with him before his stint at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, previewing his new show Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m So Clever.
Congratulations, first off, on Newsjack and your Chortle nominations.
Ah, thank you! Yeah, I mean, I was literally furious not to win. I kicked up such a fuss in the award ceremony. Anyone but Acaster! I would have been happy with anyone other than Acaster. I was livid with him. He didn’t even have the good sense to turn up.
He was in Australia.
That’s fair enough then.
And I bottled it, because I was – we share an agent, and I was going to go and interrupt my agent, in Kanye-style. I think, if he’d have been there I would have done it. But it –
It was too far maybe without him?
It was too far removed, yeah. If he’d been there, I definitely would have done it. But, thank you, yeah.
So it was the last in the series of Newsjack last week.
So how was it? How did you find it?
I thought it was great! Like, for me it was really interesting and exciting. I really love doing it, and everyone over there is really fun. I think it’s quite a cool show; I like the fact that it’s a good way to get new writers in, you know, and just sort of invite them to submit stuff. I think it’s great. The whole experience was really positive for me.
It’s really nice that it’s an open thing, to everyone.
Yeah, absolutely. And so my – I used to be in a double act with my friend Tom [Neenan]: he’s now a writer for the news quiz and all this kind of stuff. (His name’s Tom Neenan, he’s really funny.) And he got in through Newsjack. He was submitting and then like two years later was employed by the BBC. They have a contract writer scheme, he did that for three years.
So it really can be a gateway.
Yeah. My excitement doing it was… I’d seen that it does work.
And you’re part of it now.
Yeah, so it was really exciting to be part of that.
How did you find writing for radio?
It was interesting. I think what was… you know, there was no, like… I don’t know if they had a plan for it, but there was no real plan for my part. But what happened was, in the three months leading up to it I did a couple of things on The Now Show; and I’ve done bits for radio before, so sort of almost accidentally I ended up ramping up to it, so I kind felt like I transitioned into it.
So it wasn’t quite so much of a shock?
No, so I kind of accidentally ended up ramping up to it – because I don’t think anyone knew that Romesh [Ranganathan] would only do one series, I think he’s just got too much on at the moment. It worked out really nicely because I’d kind of prepped for it.
You were ready for it when it came.
Yeah, I think so. Because, those Now Shows were awesome, and really really good training.
And good people to do it with, too: The Now Show!
Yeah! Totally, yeah. They’re amazing. Those guys are incredible.
So, how is the Ruminations tour going? Sort-of tour.
It’s not really a tour.
It’s sort of a tour –
It’s sort of a tour, it’s a little tour. It’s really fun. It’s really nice to do it and – I filmed the show in Soho, and it’s going to be commercially available… soon.
… It’s definitely going to be on DVD, and it’s going to be somewhere online. But we’re still working out what that might involve. So it’s been great. I mean, it’s great to keep doing… You sort of build a show for a number of times you do it in Edinburgh, and then it’s over. So it’s nice to have –
It’s nice for it not to be over yet.
Yeah, it’s nice to not be over. And, so the next one I’m touring extensively, in November. And so, it’s nice to be able to do that with this show – it’s nice to come and do it in a couple of friendly places, like XS, and in the Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol. It’s nice to do it in fun places. But also because it’s filmed as well, I feel like this show… it’s…
You’ve saved it now.
Yeah, and I’ve… wrung it dry.
So the next show you’re going to do, you’re going to properly tour it?
It’s going to be quite extensive, yeah. Maybe in a fit of optimism, but it’s going to be quite an extensive tour.
So, when you go to New Zealand are you taking this show, or are you previewing the new show?
New Zealand will be the new show, yeah yeah yeah.
How different is this show to your previous hours?
It’s quite… I don’t know, it’s like a steady evolution. This is the third one, and the third one was just like, introducing me and, just a very typical first hour; the second one was about something quite specific; and then with this one, it felt more like a stand-up show, in that way.
That you’d sort of set the groundwork and you could…?
Yeah, not particularly by design or anything, but it just feels like… this feels like a stand-up show; and I enjoyed doing that: it’s sort of lots of different bits, there’s an over-arching theme but it’s not… maybe as specific, as the last two. And I really enjoyed doing that, it was really good fun.
Do you feel like you have a style? Or maybe that there’s a specific thing that informs your comedy?
I don’t know. Yeah, I think I’ve got a point of view, I think that’s it. That’s all I would say, is that I know my brain, and how I react to things; and I think, I feel like in the last year I’ve worked out what that means on stage for me. I feel like I’ve worked out what my stand-up character is on stage. Yeah, and so I think I know what I’m doing now, a little bit more.
How much of a persona do you think you have?
Ah, it’s minimal. It’s very minimal. But it is…
There is something.
There is something there. You are sort of turning up certain things, and turning down certain things. But it’s minimal, yeah! I’ve got friends here tonight who would dispute that they would be paying to see this. One of my friends went ‘it’s just you talking’.
Ah! So it’s just that there’s no other side to the conversation?
Yeah! It’s how I like it. I like a one-sided conversation.
So when you first got involved in comedy, did you get involved with a view to making it a career? Or was it –
Ahhhh, no. It was a club at university that I joined, yeah. No, I had no idea what I was going to do. But I really wanted to do it, and it’s great at university because you can just try everything. When I started trying it – I mean, we were very lucky because we got to go to Edinburgh. The first time I did Edinburgh was nearly ten years ago; yeah, we got to go to Edinburgh, and do shows, and see comedians… So slowly you realise, actually, I might want to do this.
Were you at Durham?
That’s a good name to carry you up to Edinburgh!
Yeah, I think so: all the reviews were like ‘we thought this was going to be terrible!’ So I’ve no idea what Durham had been playing at previously, but a lot of the reviews were like ‘I thought this was going to be bad but it wasn’t!’ Yeah! But Durham, it was a great uni and the uni was very supportive: if you want to do a thing, they will find some fund to help you do that thing. And so me, Tom Neenan – the aforementioned – and a comedian called Ed Gamble, we were all in it at the same time, so I’ve been performing with those guys since…
Because I was going to mention Gentlemen of Leisure: how did that come about? Did you start doing sketch before you did stand-up?
Well yes, I did sketch with the Durham Revue before I did stand-up, then I did stand-up; then in about 2009 me and Tom talked about maybe doing something, and we just slowly started ramping up, and we did an Edinburgh show in 2010. So I was doing stand-up at the time. And one of our producers was actually one of the people who runs this gig.
Yeah, Alex Hall.
Oh, right – she’s at Gag Reflex.
Yeah, at Gag Relfex, yeah. Back then she was just doing bits of freelance and she produced one of our shows, yeah.
How much do you think comedy, for you, has changed since you started? So, not necessarily your comedy, but your attitude towards comedy, and the opportunities you’ve had –
You sort of have to start taking it seriously, which is obviously an oxymoron. When it becomes a career, you suddenly have to kind of go – like, up in Edinburgh when we were students we just used to go and get pissed and have a laugh all the time; and it becomes, suddenly, like: I have to take this seriously, and suddenly it’s a job.
You’re working less for you and more for… your audience.
Totally, yeah! The responsibility I think changes. Once you start selling tickets on your name, then suddenly you’re like, ok this really needs to not be shit! If people don’t like something, it’s fine – because taste is different. But if you go on and are shambolic, and have had a few…
Then it’s not fair.
It’s not fair on the audience, who’ve paid money.
So, you’re going to New Zealand with a new show: looking forward to it?
Is this your… second?
No, I was in Melbourne last year, and I’m doing New Zealand this year. So I’ve no idea what it’s going to be like, I’m looking forward to it very much.
And you’re new show – similarly wordy title, in a different way –
What’s it going to be about?
Ahhhhh… it’s going to be a little bit about politics, and a little bit about me. I think it’ll be a little bit about – there’s going to be a lot of politics in it, I think.
Last one: do you have any recommendations of comedians that you think people might not know about yet, but you really like, that you think people should know about?
Yeah, all of the people here tonight, so Garrett [Millerick], Dotty [Winters], Katie [Mulgrew]; [Toby] Hadoke, obviously; and Johnny Pelham’s here, he’s funny. Gein’s Family Giftshop… Will Duggan is here, he’s a very funny guy; and obviously he’s in the juggernaut that is Funz and Gamez.
Yes, and Funz and Gamez Tooz.
Yeah, of course. But yeah, Manchester’s a really good place. There’s loads, there’s lots of really good comics around. Pelham I think is hilarious. Lolly Adefope’s great –
She’s so good.
Yeah she’s brilliant. There’s loads. It’s great.
Tickets for Nish Kumar’s new Edinburgh show – Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m So Clever – are available now. You can follow Kumar of Twitter here, and find more information and up-coming dates on his website. Molly Stewart blogs at komodie.wordpress.com