Romesh Ranganathan at Latitude 2023 | Review from the Suffolk festival © Stuart Hogben
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Romesh Ranganathan at Latitude 2023

Review from the Suffolk festival

Latitude’s comedy arena is big - but some comedians are bigger. If the tent had rafters it would have been packed to them for Romesh Ranganathan’s closing set on Sunday.

Not bad for someone Laurence Fox called out for ‘not being a comedian’ on Twitter - sorry ‘X’ – this weekend in his latest attack on… oh who cares what? One of the advantages of being in a field with scant mobile coverage for a weekend is to be untroubled by such sad gibberings.

The washed-up actor and Laughing Stock surely thinks Ranganathan’s too ‘woke’, though in his own way the comic says the unsayable. In the case of this set, that meant to confessing about how he’s not sure about his marriage, openly discussing splitting up, and questioning whether his wife would really be hot enough to be shagging Premier League footballers.

Of course the joke’s on Ranganathan himself. He may be a grump, but the fact he’s unhappy with his lot makes him low status… even if the wider things he complains about will resonate.

‘I’m done with it,’ is his stance. He can’t be bothered with the faff of making new friends, he’ll stick with his marriage as the prospect of having to get to know someone new is so grim, and self-improvement is a no-no. He’s locked into this personality now, so any flaws are everyone else’s problem, not his.

They include being cynical and two faced - though in his mind such things are virtue. ‘Everything I complain about, I do,’ he says, acknowledging his hypocrisy as he lays into the unthinking tribalism of following of slavishly following a football club. ‘What are you doing, you sad pricks, wearing a football shirt?’ he asks. But people seem happy to be insulted by him.

His gripes resonate, while he’s a pathetic figure for making so much of them. Parlaying those into laughs is tough in the outdoor gig and some of the pauses he leaves for the response go unfilled as chuckles are lost on the wind – but the crowd are on his side, sharing in the complaints.

Mostly the set is personal, but sometimes it’s wider observational material, on the inadequacy of toilet paper or the ridiculous Marmite marketing gambit, which he pulls apart expertly.  

In the final section of the set he pitches his inertia against the ‘hustle mentality’ in which everyone feels they have to work all the time. Though such opposition is rich from someone so hard-working he’s rarely off TV. Well, he did say he was a hypocrite….

‘Everyone can’t be what they want’ is his message – pragmatic in the face of a culture, and, increasingly, a comedy world, designed to uplift. But of course we can’t all live our dreams. How would stuff get done? 

Ranganathan admits he never wanted to be a comic – instead he’s a failed rapper (there was your insult, Lawrence Fox) although the Latitude audience allowed him to indulge that fantasy just for a moment.  It might have proved a stronger finish than his closing story about a trip to Chessington World of Adventure that played into his grumpiness but lacked a strong payoff, other than allowing his wife a smug ‘I told you so’. Though given what he said about her earlier, maybe it’s only fair she got the last word.

Review date: 24 Jul 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Latitude

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