Nish Kumar: It's in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London
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Nish Kumar: It's in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London

Nish Kumar is angry; but then he’s got a lot to be angry about, from the socio-political dirty bombs of Brexit and Trump, to his comedy heroes letting him down, to a society that every day seems more visibly tipped towards the white man, no matter how incompetent or even murderous.

Unshackled from the strictures of BBC balance that he must at least acknowledge on The Mash Report, on the live stage his passionate, eloquent rage is given full force. And although his social conscience means there’s a deadly serious foundation to his rants, they are also bleakly funny, with much of the humour coming at his own expense. 

For in his mind the idea that someone as inherently immature and ridiculous as him should be any sort of protest voice of a generation is laughable. Yet here were are. He may grumble that he’s been reluctantly cornered into this position by circumstance, but he excels in it, a smart, sharp, socially astute comedian very much in the John Oliver mould, but one who’s remained on British soil (post-Brexit immigration policy pending). 

For of course Kumar is outraged at how the referendum has brought racism out of the woodwork – and with this material he confesses he has ‘tricky’ club gigs 52 per cent of the time – and is exasperated at what a blizzard of inadequacy negotiating our withdrawal has proved to be. In his words, Brexit is being run by an ‘Oceans’ 11 of incompetence’.

Although those on the other end of the political spectrum might dismiss this as the bleatings of an establishment liberal, for supporters who can only sit on the sidelines of chaos, he vocalises the frustrations and incredulity, getting so worked up he ends up screeching like an angry parrot. He also argues that only the very privileged can afford to ‘opt out’ of the insane news cycle, given the impact it has on the large constituency of the marginalised.

As such, his show feels desperately relevant, taking on all the big issues of the day. #MeToo is seen through the prism of Louis CK – although in one of his many disclaimers, he’s at pains to point out that the downfall of an idol does not make him the biggest victim here. Kumar also unleashes a diatribe against Ricky Gervais, wondering how someone responsible for the perfectly tender finale of The Office has come to be spouting transphobic stand-up for backloads of Netflix cash.

But the downfall of CK is only a pothole on the gilded highway of white male privilege, Kumar argues, with any advances in liberalism delicately fragile, as the election of Trump demonstrates.

The hypocrisy in the way white mass shooters who describe themselves as ‘incels’ – involuntary celibate as women spurn them – are treated with a ridiculous compassion and understanding compared to anyone of a browner hue, a self-evident fact that riles up the already highly-strung Kumar even further.

His calling out of the mountains of bullshit that he sees is not unique, but the fire in his belly is compelling and his phrase-making memorable. He’s even been credited with coining the term ‘gammon’ to mean a certain ruddy-faced older white person seeing a return to a fictional past, as he first used in a tweet against his favourite bête noir Piers Morgan. Or ‘provocateur’ as the Good Morning Britain host might call himself, and as Kumar so bluntly translates.

In the face of people like Morgan shouting loudly, how refreshing to have someone shouting back with just as much vehemence, a stronger sense of fairness, and, most crucially, a wicked sense of humour.

Review date: 3 Oct 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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