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Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar

© Idil Sukan

Nominated for the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy award in 2015, Kumar was previously half of sketch duo the Gentlemen of Leisure, who made his Edinburgh debut in 2012

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Nish Kumar: Actions Speak Louder Than Words...

Nish Kumar: Actions Speak Louder Than Words...

Pretentious hipsters bear the brunt of quite a lot of gags this Fringe, quite reasonably, you might argue.

But Nish Kumar agues that they are merely following a social trend that is not part of the deeper problem – and certainly less insidious than their1990s predecessor, Lad Culture. But they are an easy lightning rod for distain (and even anger, in the case of the Cereal Killer Cafe protest) when the root causes of gentrification and social division are more difficult to grasp, and even harder to undo. It’s the same thinking that blames immigrants for problems when it’s more about a structure that rewards the elite at the expense of everyone else.

If this sounds a bit of a sprawling thesis for a comedy show, it is. But Kumar’s determined to be angry with the right people and not take the superficial route. The idea that we are in a post-fact era of politics by hunch, as evidenced by the Brexit and Trump campaigns, rightly terrifies him.

As does the centuries-old privilege of rich white men, and the system designed to ensure they’re OK no matter how badly they screw up. Though he’s very particular about not accidentally saying the wrong thing and causing any racial tension, getting laughs from his caution.

For Kumar knows his material can be dense – making reference to the difficult points and jokes that require some quite specific knowledge – so draws most humour from his reaction to it, or from playing up the fact that it’s come down to him to explain all this stuff.‘Are you shitting me?’ he implores in mock-incredulity at the audience’s apparent ignorance, more than once.

There are therefore more laughs in the incidental material than the core argument. Kumar makes great capital out of dividing the room into those who are on board and those who aren’t, the old Stewart Lee trick of setting himself up as a valiant battler, determined to win them over – creating a dynamic that pays dividends.

That gives him the space to get into touchy subjects, such as Brexit, of course, and Britain’s cultural shame, from our forgotten slave-history to violent imperialism. Kumar reveals that his great-great-uncle was shot in the back five times by UK troops during a protest. Does he, as a gobby comedian, have that level of commitment to the cause?

His commitment to performance is beyond reproach, however with a powerful oratory that has emotional as well as intellectual clout, delivered with the vigour of a man certain he’s right.

Before all the politics, there’s a preamble about him being an over-excited audience member for David Bowie, James Brown and Prince - shouting louder than others in a nod to the show’s themes and title. But it’s only when he gets the political bit between his teeth that the passion is really unleashed, pushing through some serious arguments though the soapbox banter

Sunday 21st Aug, '16
Steve Bennett

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