Romesh Ranganathan: Hustle | Review of the curmudgeonly comedian's latest tour © Alex Lake
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Romesh Ranganathan: Hustle

Review of the curmudgeonly comedian's latest tour

Ostensibly, this show gets its title from the fact Romesh Ranganathan has an issue with the ever-grafting hustle culture, instead believing everybody should half-arse their jobs and take life as easy as possible. This, you might think, is a bit rich from a man apparently on TV or radio every night of the week.

He freely acknowledges the hypocrisy, but his excuse is firstly that he loves stand-up, and secondly that spending a couple of hours dishing out crude insults at those who annoy him – a sizeable and ever-growing list – hardly counts as ‘work’. What proves more demanding labour is socialising. Interminable dinner parties, small talk or – horror of horrors – going on holiday with another family, a nightmare he lived in Portugal.

Thus, Hustle largely comprises the grouchy complaints of a middle-aged, middle-class Family Guy who wants to be left to his own devices and hates to be subjected to the hell that is other people.

While impatient fury propels his comedy like a Crawley Larry David, Ranganathan is actually upbeat in his grumpiness, or at least in recalling it at a distance. That wry, playful version of irritability extends to the crowd - berating us for giving him only a smattering of applause, for example. That only prompts some more sarcastic ovations from this Essex audience and a symbiotic, to-and-fro piss-take ensues.

His audience are, like most of Britain, as apathetic as him. When he announces he’s lost three stone, of course there’s no cheer. Even he downplays the achievement, resigned to the fact that, at 45, his self-improvement days are behind him.

Engagingly told anecdotes of everyday frustrations are bread-and-butter for many a stand-up, but there’s an occasional undercurrent here about trying to protect his sometimes precarious mental health – an angle that’s still a little rare in mainstream comedy.

Ranganathan confesses to intrusive thoughts and expresses jealousy of David Beckham, not for his footballing prowess or multi-millionaire lifestyle - but because the recent documentary showed how he could find happiness just from cooking a mushroom. 

Ranganathan feels family is his happy place, even though that is not always plain sailing. While he often emphasises that he loves his wife Leesa, they have had conversations about splitting up, filling him with dread - though he shares it here as part of an intimate look into the marital dynamic, opening up more than expected.

His kids, too, provide more anecdotes, from their addiction to McNuggets to the love of hip-hop he shares with his 14-year-old son. Though the styles they enjoy vary vastly, and Ranganathan’s version of simplistic old-school rap is a gem that only someone who loves the genre could probably pull off.

Curmudgeonly but sympathetic, Ranganathan reels off anecdote after anecdote that showcase a grumpiness which many people demonstrably identify with. It’s not genre-defining stand-up for the ages, occasionally nudging towards generic wisdom, but wholly entertaining, seasoned with more personal vulnerabilities, and delivered with ease and no-frills charm.

» Hustle is on tour until next summer. Romesh ​Ranganathan tour dates


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Review date: 13 Feb 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Southend Cliffs Pavilion

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