Edinburgh Review: Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar

Pleasance

****

I don’t know what Nish Kumar has been putting in his tea over the last year but it seems to have done the trick. The London-based comic has always been funny but this year he has gone up a level with a tighter, punchier performance. If you are looking for a show that is clever but never clever, clever or in danger of disappearing up its own postmodern fundament, look no further than the elaborately titled Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity. 

Kumar’s show is all about opinions – in comedy and in life. What one person finds a hoot might make another cringe. He rattles at a fair old lick through various examples, most notably a number of popular American sitcoms. Kumar notes that everyone else seems to love Big Bang Theory. He, however, is not convinced by it – the cast might be nerds but they bear no relation the the kind of nerd Kumar was at Durham University. They have girlfriends for a start.

There is also a neat dissection of 12 Years A Slave. Who enjoyed that? And is “enjoyed” quite the right way for a white liberal to describe their experience of watching a brutal film about slavery. Kumar has always touched on racism and here he does it with a number of entertaining routines, including an illuminating anecdote about a gig on the well-named Isle of Wight and a story about his moral dilemma when he had the chance of being cast as a cliched Asian character – what might have been good for his bank balance would not have been good for his soul.

This is an intelligent show, but one that is also filled with laugh-out-loud moments from start to finish. Chortle compared Kumar to John Oliver, I think he is more like David Baddiel. Unashamedly smart but happy to be the butt of the joke. When he chooses to reference WB Yeats it makes a point, but also packs a punchline. If there is a flaw here it is the finale, when he talks about the impact of the internet and how we are all being dumbed down. On the night I was in a coup de theatre that should have underlined his point didn’t quite come off. That hardly makes this a disappointing show though. In fact if it had come off it might have got five stars.

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