Nish Kumar: Actions Speak Louder Than Words…

ARC, Stockton: November 12 2016

Nish Kumar is happy to be here in Stockton. This might seem surprising: after all, his voice is croaking from shouting at the news coverage. On the up side he is pleasantly surprised by the attendance – in his his own words, he may have had “critically acclaimed” good reviews in the broadsheets and plaudits from the Edinburgh Fringe, but was anyone coming to the gigs? Well, no, so a full room is a good thing!

Although he’s a Croydon boy, Nish knows something about the region, being a Durham alumunus (Joint Honours History and English at Grey if you’re asking).

In the first half the job is to warm up the audience. This proves easier than he may have first suspected, as there’s a lot of good will for him in the room(1). There’s a bit of friendly banter with the audience, particularly with one family, who seem to have turned up en masse. He tells a couple of stories that establish what kind of guy is performing tonight. These involve his experiences of watching comedy and music alone, and how this marked him as a student as belonging to the territory of the single nerdy muso virgin. I felt his pain all too acutely. He really seems to enjoy riffing off people tonight, though he’s helped by being rather nicely heckled by a guy who turns out to write crime fiction. It’s a good crowd.

The second half brings us to the meat. It’s starts with a rumination on how the area of London where he now lives (Shepherd’s Bush) has become gentrrified. This forms just the basis for a rumination on hipsterism, and how we should cut them some slack: they’re ridiculous but basically harmless, unlike other groups in society who deserve our ire far more. This includes some fairly obvious targets, given recent events, but the comedy is generally more nuanced. Underpinning all of this is his love of Britain which is, after all, his home, but a place whose people have been lied to for so long that what was coming was inevitable in many ways. He’s impassioned and articulate(2), but most of all, he’s funny.

I like him partly because of a number of stylistic similarities to Andy Zaltzman, with whom he’s just begun to work on the rebooted Bugle. I get chance to say thanks and buy a DVD afterwards (he doesn’t give them the hard sell – no, really, he truly doesn’t); he’s a very personable guy, which is also a nice additional surprise. I just hope his voice improves soon!

(1) Another reason he was a bit apprehensive is that his mate, James Acastet, didn’t get such a great reception when he played last year.

(2) Or, he's a gobshite. Take your pick!