Arts & Culture

30th December 2019

Living up to his Name: Romesh Ranganathan, ‘The Cynic’s Mixtape.’

Comedian Romesh Ranganathan, he of the sarcasm, statement beard, and self-proclaimed ‘lazy eye’ (actually, it’s ptosis) hails originally from Sri Lanka; his Tamil surname means ‘lord of mirth.’ Does he live up to his name? I went along to his latest tour, ‘The Cynic’s Mixtape,’ to find out…

For an avowed vegan, Romesh Ranganathan certainly does talk a lot about pork. Over the course of a 90-minute set, he covered the gelatinous gummy that is a Percy Pig (of both the green-earringed and original variety); Marks & Spencer’s new ‘queer’ bacon sarnie (they’ve ditched the BLT in favour of the LGBT, by adding guac); declared mini Rom ‘the brown chipolata.’ He’s even developed a dedicated piggy daydream, a fantasy scenario that allows him to ethically chow down on some of the good ol’ pink stuff. There’s a pile-up involving a wood chip truck, some strategic roadkill, an unfortunate engine fire that doubles as a barbecue… (Sweet dreams? No, actually; hickory-smoked ones.)

So, like the rest of us, he’s a mass of contradictions. A fan of Little Mix and of Eminem, who share the loudspeaker during the eponymous interval mixtape. A stand-up whose show’s encore consisted of a bravura bout of freestyle rapping (‘Ranga’ has previously reached the finals of British amateur competitions). A deadpan comic who occasionally has to wander off to the side of the stage so he can laugh at his own jokes. Justifiably: they are pretty funny. Gag of the gig? Romesh on his slightly Isis-esque facial hair: ‘I’m not a member; I just like the look.’ *Strokes beard seductively.*

Then there’s the fact he’s an ex-Maths teacher with a way with words. His similes, for one, are spot-on. Why would we choose to eat two million turkeys each and every Christmas, he muses, when they look like ‘a penis coming out of a rain cloud’?

Yes, he’s an Asian, but he doesn’t feel compelled to make gratuitous Asian jokes. (As noted above, risque Isis ones are more his metier.) In fact, he probably made more Liverpool-based ones; this good-natured bit of Scouse-bashing, so evidently tailored to this particular gig, was much appreciated by the audience (even the Scouse ones). Southport had to field its fair share of flak, too. Considering some of the questionable destinations visited whilst filming The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan, you’d think a doddle up the resort’s Pier would be a dawdle. (Nope: too many locals.)

And, while he was on the bill on his bill (he even resorted to welcoming himself, ‘Me, Romesh Ranganathan,’ to the stage) he was not alone onstage. For his show was polyphonic. There was a whole host of characters up there with him. He had Brighton policemen, football hooligans, Piers Morgan, his wife, his three young children, his mum… (Although not quite enough of the latter, sadly, a bona fide comic genius in her own right, whom Romesh complains has lately been stealing his limelight.) There was even an appearance from a pelvis-thrusting, Moonwalking Michael Jackson. (Yeehee, sausage roll-ee.) Both vocally and choreographically, Romesh is a brilliant mimic. (Should stand- up fail, a career as tribute act ‘Mimichael Jackson’ beckons.)

If you’re searching for a show replete with pyrotechnics and pizzazz, though, this is not for you. There are no special effects, no strobe lighting, no costume changes. Unlike at Jack Whitehall’s latest peripatetic offering, he does not truss himself up like a festive… emu. To the strains of his favourite hip-hop track, he swags onstage in buttoned, collarless jacket, jeans and trainers, looking like a double-denim Fidel Castro, and there he stays for the remainder of the set. Just one man (plus an army of those he impersonates) and his mic. But the Lord of Mirth knows how to hold a crowd, and lives up to his name.

The tour, The Cynic’s Mixtape, continues until June 2020. Romesh Ranganathan will visit Liverpool’s Empire Theatre on 7 & 8 April 2020. Visit the website, or call 0844 871 3017 for tickets or more information. Prices start at £25.