By Reena Kumar
SINCE making his debut in 2010, Romesh Ranganathan has built a strong following across the UK and earned several industry accolades. He has written for and supported a number of high-profile comedians including Ricky Gervais and Bill Burr and in 2015 premiered his own BBC3 show, Asian Provocateur.
Moving from teaching to comedy was quite a career change; what inspired it?
One day I just realised how unrewarding it was to help children.
Who are you inspired by?
My younger brother has a work ethic that I find very inspiring. I would admire him if he wasn’t mum’s favourite.
Where do you source the material for your shows?
I sit around and watch my family. I warn them that if they don’t do anything interesting we won’t be able to pay the mortgage.
How does your wife feel about you describing your second child as a “little a***hole” on national television?
She says it’s not fair as he’s actually getting a bit bigger now.
How do you feel about your mother’s newly found fame after her appearance
in Asian Provocateur?
I’m not jealous. It just annoys me that she has got famous without having to do any work for it. Yes I am jealous.
How would you describe your relationship with your mum Shanthi?
My mum and I wear our hearts on our sleeves but we are very close. My mum went through great hardship bringing us up and I will never forget that. I owe her everything. But she texts me too much.
Can we expect any other programmes with her?
My mum has unfortunately reached the point where she is getting offers without me. So you’d have to ask her agent, who is also my agent. But she won’t tell me.
There aren’t many Asians in mainstream comedy and those who are get accused of focusing on their race. Why do you think that is?
They don’t focus on race all the time, that’s a myth. And even if they did, why shouldn’t they? As a comic, you should be able to talk about whatever you want. Personally, I think there are too many Asian comedians – it is eroding my USP.
Do you think it’s important to see more diversity in the arts and entertainment world?
I think enforced diversity at the top end is a quick fix that leads to resentment. I would like to see steps taken to see more diversity from the ground up, so that it is no longer “book a brown or a black or a woman or a gay for this show quickly” but the system means that we have these people properly represented as a matter of course.
I think this should apply behind the scenes too. The lack of diversity in production is a bloody joke. I have met one black and one Asian director since I started doing this and that was at one of the secret “minorities in entertainment” meetings we have every month. The food is incredible.
What would you say to encourage aspiring comedians into the industry?
There are too many comics – please give up. But if you must continue, write lots, gig lots and be easy to work with. The rest is luck. But mainly, give up.
You have said before that you don’t see yourself as successful – why is that?
Because success in comedy is fragile and transient. And it makes you constantly feel like a fraud. I spend every day waiting for my agent to call me and say: “Rom, they’ve
found out you’re s*** – it’s over.”
Finally, what exciting projects are you working on?
Every time I mention something in the pipeline in an interview, it doesn’t end up happening. So I’m planning on giving up comedy and going back to teaching.