Extracts from our interview with Nish Kumar in Idler 81, Nov/Dec 2021. Pic by Chris Floyd
Comedian Nish Kumar was in the news last year after the BBC pulled his late night satire show, The Mash Report, after four seasons. Some accused the Beeb of being racist; others of just having made a bad decision. Fellow comedian Richard Herring, for example, said that The Mash Report was one of “the best UK topical comedy shows for decades and also ironically gave right wing comic Geoff Norcott a regular platform to do his stuff. Very bad decision to axe it.” Nish, though, was sanguine about it, and moved straight on, doing a deal to produce something similar with the entertainment channel Dave. The 36 year old still finds himself on the receiving end of what we might call “abuse” from right-wing critics, perhaps more than his fair share. The Spectator, for example, loves to fling the word “woke” at him, and he incites a higher level of rage than your average leftie comic.
We met in a café in south London for some idle chit chat.
Tom Hodgkinson What about your own life philosophy? Do you have any beliefs or attitudes that sustain you?
Nish Kumar I was raised Hindu and I probably still identify myself as Hindu. My parents are really interesting people. My mum didn’t have a single fixed religious belief. Her attitude was that everybody’s belief is fine, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact other people. My dad is a Hindu, but he doesn’t really believe in proselytising about religion. The version of Hinduism my family follows doesn’t allow for conversion, so we were raised with tolerance for everyone. And I’m exactly 50 per cent my dad and 50 per cent my mum.
TH Hinduism is all about keeping a check on the ego. Does that conflict with what you do as a comedian?
NK That’s something you have to work on with mental health professionals. That’s certainly not a journey I’ve completed. It’s an ego-driven exercise and then I make jokes about how big an ego I have and people laugh at them too, so that makes it even worse. Whatever you do, you have to try to disconnect your personal happiness from your professional life. That’s a rule for life, really. Ultimately we’re all dust blowing in the wind. For a second the dust collects itself, but a second later it’s blowing away. For the brief period that the dust connects itself, you have to be able to attach to the things that really matter, which are family and friends.
TH What about your idling time? Do you have a tendency to overwork?
NK I do but it comes from a strange place, which is knowing that I’m fundamentally a lazy person. The centre of my being is a guy wearing tracksuit bottoms slumped on the sofa. The effort of sitting up and wearing normal clothes is the real act. I am fucking amazing at idling. I have a lot of interests. My partner says I’m the easiest person to buy presents for because I’m a fan of so much stuff. As soon as I have time free I’m at the cinema, listening to a new album, reading a new book, watching a new TV show. At any given moment I’m thinking about the next series of Succession, playing my guitar terribly or seeing the new Candyman.
TH You’re doing a big tour next year.
NK Though I love TV, it’s being on tour, doing gigs, that I love the most. There’s an incredible freedom – no other people to please or explain your stuff to – just you and the audience. To be able to do that and get paid a bunch of money is simply amazing. It’s then that I think, “I really do have the best job in the world.”
Nish Kumar is touring with his new show, Your Power, Your Control, from February 2022. More info and tickets: nishkumar.co.uk
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