FROM auditioning for the new Mary Poppins film to travelling around America with his mum, few comedians have had a busier year than Romesh Ranganathan.
The 38-year-old has become one of the country’s leading comics following appearances on programmes such as Mock The Week.
Ranganathan left his career as a maths teacher behind to tour the country as a comedian and recently starred in BBC series Asian Provocateur, which saw him travel around the world with his mother, Shanthi.
Ranganathan told Eastern Eye he would like to do a third series of the programme, but would prefer to pursue a new TV idea.
“When we did series one, we thought that would be it. If we come up with something good or something occurs, then we do it; otherwise, no. I do want to do it and am
glad how series two went, but I wouldn’t want to do it for the sake of it. If there was a choice between doing it and finding something brand new to do, I would do the brand new thing.”
The married father-of-three, who lives in West Sussex, recently finished a nationwide tour. In 2017, Ranganathan plans to write a book, film sports panel show Play to the Whistle (he is an Arsenal fan) and write jokes for a new tour.
He admitted his hardworking nature is down to a “massive fear that it’s going to stop”. “My dream is to spend the rest of my life writing tour shows and then performing them around the country.
“It’s not like how it used to be when you appeared on one TV show, everybody knows who you are and you tour for the rest of my life. It’s more difficult to get a profile. Teaching is a reliable and safe job, comedy isn’t. There’s always that fear at the back of your head that my agent is going to phone and say: ‘It’s over, but I looked in the Times Educational Supplement and there’s a job down the road.’”
He remains driven to become a better comedian and father to his three sons.
“I’ve enjoyed doing this tour, but I’m not as good as I want to be. With comedy you never feel you’ve settled and achieved what you want to. I want to be a good family man, which I’m not at the moment.
“I am away and then when I’m here, I’m quite annoying. The other day, my kids went to an after-school music class, we ordered coffees, teas and cakes for the kids and I was helping my wife. The woman working there said: ‘She does this a lot quicker when you’re not here.’ I thought: ‘Why don’t you p**s off.’
“I want to get to the point when somebody says: ‘It’s a lot better when you’re around.’”
Ranganathan, whose family hails from Sri Lanka, got his first taste of comedy aged 11 in a talent show. After graduating from university, he dabbled in reviewing pensions and working out the cost of meals for airlines. He then spent seven years in teaching and had many memorable encounters with parents.
“I had a Pakistani mum come and sit down at a parents evening and wanted her daughter to be moved up a set.
“I said: ‘Your daughter is not right to move to set one based on her marks.’ She said: ‘I want her in set one now, I’m not leaving this table until you tell me you’re putting her into set one.’ I said you’re going to be here a while then because I can’t do that.”
He added: “There was a lad who was messing about a lot. I was sending letters home – if his behaviour continues, he’s going to be asked to leave.
“His mum didn’t speak English properly so he was translating them differently and said they were letters of commendation. I called them for a meeting. Her neighbour came to translate, she told the mum who started crying. I didn’t know what to do.”
Ranganathan has another claim to fame, appearing in a German film called Age of Cannibals in which he had to slap a servant, after some unsuccessful auditions, including for Mary Poppins.
“Afterwards I told my agent not only have I not got this part, but I can’t imagine Disney will ever want to see me again.”
■ Romesh Ranganathan’s DVD Irrational Live is out now. Visit www.romeshranganathan.co.uk