It’s fair to say that 2015 has been a great year for Croydon comedian Nish Kumar. Now a firm fixture of Radio 4 Extra’s topical Newsjack (which features material submitted via an open call), the show is up for a prestigious Rose d’Or. Meanwhile, Nish’s solo show, Long Word … Long Word … Blah Blah Blah … I’m So Clever, was deemed the most reviewed at the Edinburgh Fringe, garnering 4x 5-star and 15x 4-star reviews, and a Foster’s Comedy Award nomination.
Having recently closed the Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award show at The Glee Club Birmingham, Nish returns to the venue on Thursday 26 November 2015 as part of his debut UK tour. “It’s been going well, yeah,” says the comic who cites Stewart Lee, Josie Long, Chris Rock and Richard Pryor as inspirations. “The gigs have been good, people have been enjoying the show.”
Long Word … Long Word … Blah Blah Blah … I’m So Clever, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue – it’s quite an unconventional title.
Yes, it’s a very convoluted title. It’s partly a response to having to come up with a title for a show for Edinburgh [Fringe which takes places in August] – you can’t box yourself into a corner by naming a show too specifically in February when you don’t know what the show’s about yet. It’s also a reference to my previous show, which was called Ruminations On The Nature Of Subjectivity.
Comics often regret giving their shows titles months and months before they’ve been written – are you still happy with Long Word…?
Absolutely! I’m happy with it, yes.
Does the show have a political standpoint? Would you describe it as political?
It’s a vaguely political show. It’s about what it means to be a political comic in 2015, and why do people think that comedy is left-wing. Why is that? … if that is the case. It’s also about where we are with what can and can’t be said to liberal audiences, and where Labour is today. I guess there are three areas – political correctness, diverseness, and where Labour is.
Would you describe it as a left-wing show?
I wouldn’t … umm [pauses] … yes, it is a left-wing show. I would say that.
There’s an argument that contemporary comedy is mostly observational, that it’s largely failed to respond to or reflect the recession, or the world’s mounting woes, in the same way as comedy did in, for example, the late-70s and early-80s. What’s your thoughts on ‘political comedy’, comedy that isn’t afraid to comment and offer solutions, as opposed to just pointing something out? Does it exist?
Throughout this period there have been a few comics who’ve done shows about the economic situation [and] I think we’re experiencing a renaissance now, with acts like Sara Pascoe, Liam Williams, Bridget Christie, and Stewart Lee, who is a polemicist almost. So political comedy has been around, but not like it was in the ‘80s … I think it is coming back. But it’s always been there. As long as there’s been politics, there’s been comedy about politics. It’s part of the checks and balances …
What are some of the specific themes you discuss in the show?
We have a bit of a chat about the possibility of a black James Bond, economics, free speech and a lot of stuff about Monopoly – in relation to economics.
Are you a fan of the board game?
I am a fan, yes. I prefer to take my time play it. It’s like Test Cricket … it’s best to take your time …
How have you found being part of the Newsjack team?
It’s been amazing! Really good fun. We’ve just been nominated for the Rose d’Or for Best Radio Comedy. It’s been a universally positive experience. The next series – the 14th – starts in February . The challenge of it is that rather than have a six month period, you have to produce a show within three days. When you write a [solo stand-up] show, you have to pick up on bigger themes because what you’re writing about in the spring still needs to be relevant in August-December. You can’t do newsworthy things so easily, because people may have forgotten about them by the end of the year. But with Newsjack, you can react to something that’s happened that week straight away.
Are you involved in the selection process for the show?
My focus is on the monologue, the five minutes of stand-up at the start of the show. Once I’ve done that, then I can get involved with script editing…
Are you surprised by the high quality of the crowd-sourced material?
Surprised? No. I know how much great comedy writing there is out there. I really believe in the show. I’ve saw it work before I joined – people I knew were getting stuff on-air. I know how much talent is out there … there’s so much good writing talent … it’s really exciting.
You’ve also contributed to The Now Show…
The Now Show, that was the first thing that got me in the frame for Newsjack – they’ve been great.
What are your plans for the coming months?
I’m developing stuff myself. There’s possibly a sitcom in the works and a few other radio things, but Newsjack’s my top priority. I’m doing bits ‘n’ bobs, writing. I’ve finished a short film for Sky for Christmas. It’s the first time I’ve written something like that and I’m hoping to do more things like it. It’s part of a series – I can’t say anymore at present as Sky haven’t announced it yet …
I also have a London run … and going to Australia and New Zealand in the spring.
Will you be returning to the Edinburgh Fringe next year?
Yes, I am planning to. I still love it. It’s still the best place to toughen up a show and get it ready to tour.
Any thoughts on a show title yet?
No, not yet, but it will be something great.
You mentioned visiting New Zealand and Australia – how does your comedy travel?
I guess Australia and New Zealand are English-speaking countries, with shared reference points, so it goes down good, yeah. I have performed in a few different countries, including India, which was amazing! I had so much fun. I did it via the Melbourne Comedy Festival and the gigs were great. My family’s from India, from Bangalore. It was pretty intimidating doing it in front of them, but they said they liked it …. it would have been pretty awkward if they’d said they didn’t.
You were previously part of a sketch group and a duo – any plans to return to those formats?
I did sketches at university [in Durham] and I was in a double-act [with Tom Neenan] but I did stand-up in parallel. It’s not an issue of not wanting to do those things again, but more of a question of time – the other half the double-act is now a professional writer on Newsjack! But I hope to be able to return to those things in the future.
* Nish Kumar’s Long Word … Long Word … Blah Blah Blah … I’m So Clever is at The Glee Club Birmingham on Thursday 26 November 2016. Tickets £10. Doors 8pm. www.glee.co.uk