In the comedy world, there is a bit of a preconception about tv comics – people that seem to turn up on every channel at once, mocking weeks and delivering news for you – that they’re kind of dull and safe. As such, I didn’t have the highest hopes as I sat down to watch Romesh Ranganathan. Luckily, however, my prejudices were unfounded.
In a smart jacket and blindingly white shoes, Ranganathan looked more ready for a night out than a mammoth stand-up show (spending the best part of two hours onstage), and spent the opening few minutes bantering with the audience accordingly. His crowd work, which was a recurring feature through the night, was a joy to witness for the most part, managing to be clever whilst rarely being cruel, although he did manage to occasionally lose control of the rowdy crowd to need to heckle. However, his stage presence was often enough to calm them back down.
His pre-written material on the other hand was more of a mixed bag. The more personal stuff; the problems with having three children, people preferring his mother to him, etc, was all fantastic and original takes on what is, by this point, fairly well worn territory. On the other hand, much of the more observational stuff- starbucks, people using smartphones in public, cinema popcorn et al, was a checklist of hacky stand-up, often coupled with lazy punchlines that are just him swearing or calling someone a ‘prick’ instead of actually including jokes.
As hit and miss as it is, the crowd always love him, everything getting huge laughter, and there are moments of genius, namely his takes on race and Iggy Azalea in particular, but there seems to be a lot of filler, as if perhaps he isn’t quite ready for such a long show in such a big room. He does often seem anxious, lacking the stage presence to fill a stage built primarily for theatre, and he spends a lot of time pacing up and down stage, fiddling with his water.
An encore too, having already performed for about an hour and a half, is nice fan service but maybe seems somewhat misguided. He pauses briefly, then admits that he’s ran out of material (which is somewhat clear from certain segments of the main body of the show), which leads to an impromptu q and a session with the audience. In this section, though his crowd work is still very good, it is often the input of the crowd itself getting the big laughs, until the tries to crowbar in some material about teaching that he’s performed a number of times on television. It gets a cheer of recognition, and one audience member to my left even says the punchline along with him. This really exemplifies the nature of the tv comic, fan adoration coupled with material being chewed up by the need to produce constant output.
Essentially, this is a very decent show that, if trimmed and maybe in a more conventional comedy setting, could be fantastic.